Exhibition 16th-century artist Maarten van Heemskerck

Maarten van Heemskerck, Self-portrait with the Colosseum, 1553. Oil on panel. Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Press release

Exhibition 16th-century artist Maarten van Heemskerck
8 December 2011

This spring, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen will be putting on an exhibition about Maarten van Heemskerck. The exhibition sketches a picture of the classical sources that inspired the 16th-century artist and the role he and his contemporaries played in the revaluation of the antiquities.

This spring, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen will be exhibiting prints, paintings and drawings by Maarten van Heemskerck (1498-1574), in two rooms. Sketches made by Van Heemskerck during his visit to Rome are used to provide insight into the sources of inspiration of the artist from Haarlem. Central to the exhibition is the oil painting ‘Self portrait with Colosseum’, painted by Van Heemskerck in 1553, which has been specially loaned for this exhibition from the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

Trip to Rome
Maarten van Heemskerck began his trip to Rome in 1532. Once there, he was inspired by the remains of classic antiquity and the work of the great masters of the Italian renaissance. He filled sketchbooks with his studies of classical architecture, ruins and ancient sculptures. His trip followed in the footsteps of other Dutch artists such as Jan Gossaert (c. 1478-1532) and his teacher Jan van Scorel (1495-1562).

Self portrait with Colosseum
Maarten van Heemskerck painted ‘Self portrait with Colosseum’ in 1553, many years after returning from Rome. The painting shows his self portrait, with a painting of the ruins of the Colosseum in the background: this was, according to the artist, the ultimate symbol of ancient Rome. A figure is sketching before the ruins, and the figure shows a remarkable likeness with the artist himself. This ‘painting in a painting’ shows the influence classical antiquity had on the oeuvre of the artist and forms the basis for the selection of the works in the exhibition.

Classical quotes
The impressions Maarten van Heemskerck acquired during his stay in Rome can often be found in the later Biblical and mythological scenes, allegories and portraits. The paintings and prints in the exhibition show classical elements with a moralistic message, literary themes from antiquity or the classical ideal of the human anatomy. Maarten van Heemskerck’s prints made an important contribution to spreading the Italian renaissance in the northern Netherlands.

An information brochure accompanies the exhibition, and, using the sketches of Van Heemskerck, it takes the visitor on a visual tour of ancient Rome. The text of the brochure is in both Dutch and English.

The curator explains
In connection with the exhibition, the museum is organising an afternoon in which the curator talks about Maarten van Heemskerck and his sources of inspiration.

The exhibition ‘Maarten van Heemskerck - Ancient Rome Relives’ has been made possible largely thanks to a private donation.