Comments by contemporaries and biographers

I went to Holland and Flanders above all to see our painting: but I really found no work that has absorbed so much of the Italians as that of this German. I request of you that you hold his work in the highest esteem.

Jan Brueghel the Elder, writing to Cardinal Federico Borromeo, 1596


When he arrived in Rome he devoted himself to painting on plate as is customary with the Netherlanders, but not like an average journeyman, for he applied himself to inventing various things. (...) He eventually arrived in Venice, where he married a Venetian woman, and he painted a multitude of handsome pieces on copper - some large, some small, which are distributed through many countries and can be seen with art lovers (...) so that just as his paintings are valued by the art lovers his name is also worthy to be nominated and included among the art-full painters.

Carel van Mander, Het Schilder-Boek, Haarlem 1604


For the Emperor Rudolph II he painted the Gods seated at a table, richly furnished with food and drink, vases and other splendid ornaments; for the fine work he received 500 scudi, which made him rise in the esteem of others. From then on many opportunities were open to him, and several rulers had figures on copper painted, which were then sent to Paul Bril in Rome so that he might add the landscape. In Verona in the collection of Signori Muselli I saw a very charming circle of nymphs done in this manner that Duke Ferdinando von Mantua had exchanged for a small book of drawings by Parmigiano. The Muselli also possess a Wedding at Cana in small format by the same artist, where the Saviour is seated at the head of the table and is conversing with the mother. It shows many guests, including lovely faces of ladies, musicians and wind players and other people sitting a little further off, who are dining happily at another table.

Carlo Ridolfi, Maraviglie dell’Arte, Venice 1648


Although he now earns a large sum of money with so many marvellous works in oil colours and in fresco from emperors, kings and other great admirers, yet such means as these have brought forth little in him, for he very soon spent everything, and was constantly living in great need, as some of his acquaintances have reported for sure, saying that he earns about 80.000 guilders, but expends about 82.000, so that at any time he wastes more than he gains, even to the extent that after his decease his faithful acquaintances all chipped in so that he could be buried in the earth. Of other regrettable things that one might report of this excellent man we pass by in silence, that his great artistic fame might not be overshadowed in the eyes of posterity too by such an irregular way of life.

Joachim von Sandrart, Teutsche Academie der Bau-, Bild- und Mahlerey-Künste,
Nuremberg 1675-80



Lucas Kilian, Portrait Hans Rottenhammer,

Kunsthalle Hamburg