Heinrich Aldegrever or Aldegraf (1502 - 1555 or 1561) was a German
painter and engraver. He was one of the Little Masters, the group of
German artists making small old master prints in the generation
Painter, printmaker and
goldsmith active in a Westphalia milieu. Born in Paderborn. His real
name was Trippenmecker, which in Westphalian dialect means a
clog-maker. It is not known where Aldegrever was taught. He probably
worked in a workshop of one of the Soest goldsmiths. His early works
show a strong Westphalian influence. Aldegrever made a journey to
the Netherlands, where he became acquainted with works of Joos van
Cleve, Barendt van Orley, Lucas van Leyden and Jacob Cornelisz.
Around 1525 he moved to Soest,
where a year later he painted the wings and predella of the Mary
altar for the church of St. Peter. His signature and symbolic clog
show that he was still using his father's name.
His first engravings appeared in
1527. They were signed with a monogram "AG", resembling closely that
of Albrecht Dürer. In 1531, influenced by surrounding religious
fervour, he became a Lutheran. Because of lack of church commissions
he devoted most of his time to portrait painting and printmaking.
Aldegrever's some 290 engravings and woodcuts, chiefly from his own
designs, are delicate and minute, though somewhat hard in style, and
entitle him to a place in the front rank of the so-called "Little
Masters": Barthel Beham, his brother Hans Sebald Beham, and Georg
Pencz, with whom he is often compared. Like them, he was also a
skilled ornament designer. From the close resemblance of his style
to that of Albrecht Dürer he has also sometimes been called the
"Albert of Westphalia". He made a large number of ornament prints.
Aldegrever, who actively supported
the Reformation, executed portraits of Martin Luther and Philip
Melanchton. Although he chose the Lutheran Church, he had friends
among the Anabaptists. He was commissioned by the bishop of Münster
in 1535-36 to engrave portraits of Anabaptist leaders Jan van Leyden
and Berndt Knipperdolling, although they were already imprisoned,
and only caricatures of them circulated. In the cycle Power of
Death, done under visible influence of Hans Holbein, he criticizes
the vices of the Catholic Church.
Aldegrever was interested also in
folk subjects. In 1538 and 1551 two series of prints depicting
marriage dances were made. An important part of his oeuvre are
prints on mythological subjects, the Deeds of Hercules being one of
the best examples.
There is a good collection of his
prints in the British Museum. Specimens of his painting are
exceedingly rare. Five pictures are in continental galleries, but
the genuineness of the works in the Vienna and Munich collections
attributed to him is at least doubtful, the only unchallenged
example being a portrait of Engelbert Therlaen (1551) in the Berlin