Cologne 1552 — 1615 Prague

Holy Family with St. Anne and Two Angels

oil on copper. 111/16 x 81/2" (281 x 216 mm).

The present composition is derived from an engraving measuring 111/2 x 85/8" (292 x 219 mm) by Agedius Sadeler that was in turn derived from a design, presumably a small painting, by Hans van Aachen.1 Both works were probably executed in the decade of the 1590's. A number of painted versions are known, though they are not of the quality of the present example. Their existence is testimony to the popularity and appeal of the composition. A painting on metal, measuring 111/8 x 81/4" (283 x 210 mm), was sold at Sotheby's in London on 12 July, 1978. It was (erroneously) attributed to Hans van Aachen. In a sale at Christie's on 22 July 1988, another version measuring 101/2 x 8" (267 x 203 mm) was offered as circle of Calvaert. Richard Feigen had a third version which was given to Pieter van Veen. A larger oil on canvas, 40 x 32" (1010 x 810 mm), labelled follower of Hans van Aachen was offered by Sotheby's, lot #1 on 22 October, 1992. Also larger, 34 x 29" (860 x 730 mm), a painting catalogued as School of Prague, ca. 1580, was sold by Ader Tajan at Drouot on June 28, 1993, cat. #81. Similarly catalogued and of similar size, 34 x 30" (860 x 760 mm), Ader Tajan sold another version on 31 March, 1994, #57.

Hans von Aachen came from Cologne and married the daughter of Orlando di Lasso, a famous music composer from that time whose works are today still performed. He worked for many years in Italy, he was court artist to Havarian Duke Wilhelm V and he moved to Prague in 1597. Rudolf II showed him favour and elevated him in 1604 to the status of nobleman. Hans von Aachen was responsible for procuring for Rudolf's collections the famous Classical torso of Ilioneus by Praxiteles which became a kind of memento of the Rudolfine collections. It remained at the Prague Castle until 1782 when it was auctioned off for thirty kreutzers by the offices of Josef II during the period of the Enlightenment. It is now housed at the museum of glyptic art in Munich. Von Aachen was represented at the exhibition (Rudolf, 1997, Prague) by a number of oil paintings and drawings such as The Annunciation, in the ownership of the Prague Archbishopric, The Three Graces from the National Museum collections in Bucharest and Bacchus, Ceres and Cupid from the gallery of the Museum of Art History in Vienna.


Reproduced in Hollstein's Dutch and Flemish Etchings, Engravings and Woodcuts, ca. 1450-1700, Vol. XXII, Amsterdam, 1980, p. 19, cat. & fig. 79.