- Museum number
Portrait of Jan van Leyden, preparatory study for Aldegrever's engraving, dated 1536; half-length, turned to half-right, holding a book in one hand, a scroll in the other, wearing a hat and cloak, an orb suspended from a chain around his neck, and with beard and moustache
Black chalk, with red chalk, indented for transfer, on light buff paper
- Production date
Height: 266 millimetres
Width: 233 millimetres (irregular)
- Curator's comments
- Summary of J.Rowlands, 'Drawings by German Artists and Artists from German-speaking regions of Europe in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum: the Fifteenth Century, and the Sixteenth Century by Artists born before 1530', London, BM Press, 1993, no. 46:
'This is a detailed preparatory study, made in reverse, for Aldegrever's engraving of Jan Bockelson, called Jan van Leyden, dated 1536 (1868,0822.277). From what remains of it, the drawing corresponds closely with the print except for a few details, the most notable being the omission in the drawing of the sceptre which rests on the sitter's arm in the print. To accommodate the sceptre, the sitter's left hand has been moved forward, and the book that he holds is consequently seen at a more acute angle than in the drawing. Furthermore, the lettering on the scroll, which refers to Jan van Leyden's right, as King of the Anabaptists, to name all newborn infants in alphabetical order, is changed from ABC in the drawing to DEF in the print. The majority of Aldegrever's known drawings were made in the medium of pen and ink. The handling of the present study may, however, be compared with the ‘Portrait of a man’, possibly the Anabaptist Bernd Krechting, in Berlin (Kupferstichkabinett, KdZ. 4242; Münster, ‘Wiedertäufer’, pp. 179ff., no. 119, repr.; Münster, ‘Aldegrever’ p. 46, no. 5, repr.), made in the similar, although less elaborately treated, technique of black and coloured chalk. Geisberg considered that Aldegrever, who had Lutheran sympathies but was probably not himself an Anabaptist, was commissioned by the Bishop of Münster, Franz von Waldeck, to make the engraved portrait of Bockelson. This presumably appeared shortly after the latter's death and was made with a pendant engraving of Bernd Knipperdolling, dated 1536 (Bartsch, viii, p. 416, no. 183). This drawing was probably not made from life, but after life-studies done while Bockelson was in prison. Bockelson's emblem, an imperial orb pierced with two swords and surmounted by a cross, which was adopted by him for the arms of his kingdom, is seen here on the large chain which the sitter wears and is also recorded in an anonymous pen-and-ink drawing in the British Museum (1862,0208.51). Three gold chains traditionally thought to have belonged to Bockelson are preserved in two private collections in north Germany (Münster, ‘Wiedertäufer’, pp. 192ff., nos. 129 and 130, repr.). They are not the same as the chains represented by Aldegrever, and it seems likely that the artist, who may have practised as a goldsmith, invented the design of these together with that of the crown and sceptre.'
Label text 2005:
'This is the most important drawing to have survived by Aldegrever, a north German artist who is best known for his intricate engravings for ornament. Jan Bockelson, called Jan van Leyden (1509-1536) was the self-appointed leader of the Anabaptists, a radical religious sect based in Münster, which expelled all Catholics and Lutherans from the town and established a form of theocracy, with Bockelson calling himself King. The engraving, for which this drawing is a study, was probably commissioned by the Bishop of Münster following the defeat of the Anabaptists by Imperial troops in 1535. Bockelson and his associates were executed in January 1536; the cages, in which their bodies were subsequently suspended from the tower of St Lambert's church in Münster, can still be seen today.'
Lit from Rowlands: Geisberg, Aldegrever, pp. 26ff, pl. 3; Vasari Society, iii, 1st series, 1907-8, no. 31, repr.; Zschelletzschky, Aldegrever, p. 93; A. Shestack, MD, viii, 1970, pp. I44f, repr.; BM Portrait Drawings, p. 8, no. 10; Münster, Wiedertäufer, p. 179, no. 118, repr.; Münster, Aldegrever, p. 42 under no. 3, p. 70, repr.; BM Dürer and Holbein, p. 168, no. 138, repr.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1974 July-Dec, BM, Portrait Drawings, no.10
1982/3 Oct-Jan, Stadtmuseum, Munster, 'The Anabaptists in Munster', (no cat.)
1984 BM, Master Drawings & Watercolours, no.57
1988 Jul-Oct, BM, Age of Dürer & Holbein, no.138
2000/1 Sep-Jan, Munster, Stadtmuseum, 'Das Konigreich der Taufer'
2005, 7 July-25 Sept, BM, 'Masterpieces of Portrait Drawing' (no cat.)
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number