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Maarten Van Heemskerck’s unique depictions of Wonders of the World



Born on June 1 1498, Maarten Van Heemskerck was a Dutch painter, portraitist and a specialist of historical paintings. He was the designer for many engravers and is known especially for his depictions of the Wonders of the World.

Heemskerck was born in North Holland and was a son of a farmer. He’s a product of Antwerp School that produced many renowned artists. According to Carel Van Mander’s Schilder-Boek of 1604, he first studied with Cornelis Willemsz in Haarlem, then with Jan Lucasz in Delft and later with Jan van Scorel and he was attracted to the new manner of painting by Scorel and adapted the Italian-influenced style of painting in his art.


Before setting off for Rome, the artist had painted a family portrait, considered first of its kind in a long time of Dutch family paintings for PieterJan Foppesz and also painted a scene of St. Luke painting the Virgin for the altar of St. Luke in the Bavokerk. In Rome he made accurate sketches of antique ruins and statues; he was influenced by Raphael and contemporary artists such as Michelangelo and Salviati. There he was selected to collaborate with Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, Battista Franco and Francesco de Rossi on redecoration of the Porta San Sebastiano at Rome.

His depictions of the seven wonders of world were very far from reality, the archaeological documentary work that is done for more than a century proves it. His representation of the pyramid of Giza is picturised with a much sharper point than normal; the colossus of Rhodes’s depiction is much bigger than the size he really had; the lighthouse of Alexandria was three blocks in different shapes, but Heemskerck’s drawing shows a tower approaching what was thought to be the form of the Tower of Babel.


After his return to Netherlands in 1536, he became president of the Haarlem Guild of Saint Luke in 1540. Later in 1572 he left Haarlem for Amsterdam, to avoid the siege of Haarlem. He died on 1 October, 1574.





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