worked with Scorel in Haarlem 1527-29 and learned most of the Italianate
manner from him before going to Italy in 1532 himself. Before he left he
gave his St Luke Painting the Virgin to the Haarlem Guild (now in
Haarlem, Hals Museum); this is almost a parody of the Italian manner, as
conceived by a Northerner at second hand.
In Rome he made a large
number of drawings (1532-35) of the antiquities and works of art, and
two of his sketchbooks (Berlin) are invaluable evidence for the
monuments of antiquity as they existed in the 16th century, as well as
for such things as the building of New St Peter's.
He settled in Haarlem in
1537 and worked there for the rest of his life except for a flight to
Amsterdam (1572-73) while the Spaniards were besieging Haarlem. He
painted a number of fine portraits, as well as Italianate religious
pictures. There are works by him in Amsterdam (Rijksmuseum), Barnard
Castle (Bowes Museum), Berlin, Brussels, Cambridge (Fitzwilliams, Self
Portrait with the Colosseum in the Background ), Kassel, Ghent, The
Hague, Lille, Linköping Cathedral, Sweden, New York (Metropolitan
Museum), as well as in Haarlem and elsewhere.
This painting of an unknown
family is one of the most important works of portraiture in 16th-century
Netherlandish art. It also provides an exemplary illustration of the
possibilities offered by the combination of Early Netherlandish
tradition, Italian influences and creative talent.
The clear compositional
structure, stabilized by its "corner posts" of father and
mother yet with no sense of rigidity, reflects both the influences with
which Heemskerck was confronted in Rome and his own endeavours to lend
plastic conviction to his figures and objects. The richly decked table,
on the other hand, with its carefully executed tableware and food, takes
up the love of detail so characteristic of Early Netherlandish painting.
It is but a short step from here to the emergence of the still-life as a
genre in its own right.
While the different ages
of the three children are accurately characterized, the figures
nevertheless remain coolly distanced from the spectator. The inner world
of the painting remains hermetically sealed, an impression reinforced by
the technique employed for the background, whereby the paint is applied
in thin, smooth layers in pale forms which seem to be abstracted from
Portrait, one of his greatest works, was for a long time attributed to
his fellow Dutchman Jan van Scorel.