- Sebald Beham
- Recto: a putto standing beside a flaming urn
Verso: four studies of men's heads
- Pen and black ink over traces of black chalk (recto and verso)
August Grahl, Dresden (L.1199)
Traditionally, this artist has been known as Hans Sebald Beham, but as John Rowlands has pointed out, there is no documentary evidence for the initial Hans, and the letter H in the artist's monogram probably represents the second syllable of his surname.1 A native of Nuremberg, Beham was banished from the city in 1525, together with his brother Barthel Beham and Georg Pencz, for making atheistic and anarchistic statements in support of the Peasants' War. Though he was subsequently permitted to return, he led a somewhat itinerant life over the following few years, before settling in Frankfurt in around 1532.
Initially very much influenced by Dürer, Beham came to develop his own distinctive style, and was highly productive, chiefly as a printmaker. Though he did not live a particularly long life, he made some 270 engravings and etchings and around 1,500 woodcuts. The present sheet relates to two woodcuts from a series of 20 that Beham made as illustrations to a drawing manual, published in Frankfurt in 1546, under the title Das Kunst und Lehrbüchlein Sebalden Behems.2 The print of the putto is signed with the artist's monogram and dated 1546, that with the heads only monogrammed. The drawings are larger than the blocks and in the same direction, but, from the minor differences in compositional details, and the small but significant pentimenti (in, for example, the extended right hand of the putto), it seems that they are nonetheless autograph studies by Beham for the prints.
Beham's interest in studies of expressive heads was a long-standing one: his earliest surviving drawing, from 1518, is a sheet of studies of eight heads3, which, though less elaborate and formal than those seen here, share numerous similarities of detail, and no fewer than 13 of the 20 prints in the 1546 series to which the present drawing relates are studies of heads.
The drawing is sold with letters from Dr. Kurt Löcher and Dr. Matthias Mende, confirming the attribution to Beham.
1. J. Rowlands, Drawings by German Artists in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, 2 vols., London 1993, vol. I, p. 36
2. Hollstein's German Engravings, Etchings and Woodcuts, ca 1400-1700, vol. III, p. 267, nos. 1277 (the heads) and 1283 (the putto)
3. Braunschweig, Landesmuseum. E. Schilling, Die Meisterzeichnungen.. III. Band. Nürnberger Handzeichnungen des XV. Und XVI. Jahrhunderts, Freiburg im Breisgau 1929, plate 48