Sebald Beham (Biographical details)

Sebald Beham (printmaker; painter/draughtsman; German; Male; 1500 - 1550)

Also known as

Beham, Sebald; Peham, Sebald; Beham, Hans Sebald


Engraver, etcher, miniaturist, woodcut designer, glass painter and illustrator designer working in Nuremberg. Elder brother of Barthel Beham (q.v.). In January 1525, together with his brother Barthel Beham (q.v.) and Georg Pencz (q.v.), he was banished from Nuremberg for making atheistic and anarchistic statements in support of the Peasants' War but was permitted to return in September of the same year. In 1528, after publishing a book on the proportions of the horse, 'Dises Büchlein zeyget an und lernet ein Mass oder Proportion der Ross', he was accused of plagiarising unpublished work by Dürer and again fled from Nuremberg. He returned in 1529. Woodcuts by him were published in Ingolstadt in 1527, 1529 and 1530. In 1530 he was in Munich, where he witnessed the triumphal entry of the Emperor Charles V, an event which he commemorated in one of his finest woodcuts, printed from five blocks, 'The Military Display, 10 June 1530'. In 1530/1 he worked for Cardinal Albrecht of Brandenburg, for whom he illuminated, together with Nikiaus Glockendon (d. 1534), two prayerbooks (Kassel, Bibliothek, and Aschaffenburg, Königliche Bibliothek) and painted a tabletop, signed and dated 1534 (Paris, Louvre). From 1532, Beham seems to have lived mostly in Frankfurt, where his work was published by Egenolf. He became a citizen of Frankfurt in 1540, having renounced his Nuremberg citizenship in 1535. Known as one of the so-called 'Little Masters' from the small scale of his engravings (see Heinrich Aldegrever and Georg Pencz), he was one of the most productive graphic artists of his generation, with an output of about 250 engravings and over a thousand woodcuts. There is no documentary evidence for the name Hans which appears in the early literature. He was identified as Sebald Beham although since the 17th century and in the early years of the 20th he was mistakenly called Hans Sebald Beham on the basis of his monogram: HSP or HSB. The Peham/Beham changing to B c. 1531.


Prints catalogued by Bartsch VIII; Pauli; and Hollstein (which follows Pauli's numbering)

Rowlands, 'German Drawings in the British Museum', London, 1993, p.36; G. Bartrum, 'German Renaissance Prints, 1995, p. 100; A. Stewart, 'Before Bruegel: Sebald Beham and the Origins of Peasant Festival Imagery'. Aldershot, 2008; Nuremberg Dürer-Haus 2011, 'Die gottlosen Maler von Nürnberg' (ed.J.Müller & T.Schauerte)