Martin Droeshout (Biographical details)

Martin Droeshout (printmaker; British; Male; 1601 - 1639 after)

Also known as

Droeshout, Martin; Droeswood, Martin

Biography

Droeshout's name is only familiar because he happened to engrave the portrait of Shakespeare that was prefaced to the First Folio of his Works in 1623. He was the son of Michael, also an engraver, himself the second generation of a family that had emigrated from Brussels to London in about 1570. Only two engravings by the father are listed by Hind, which suggests that he had some other occupation to support him. Michael was married in 1595 (Moens p.103), and had three sons, John, Martin and William, who were baptised in the Dutch Reform Church in 1596, 1601 and 1603 respectively (Moens pp.20-1). John, as well as Martin, became an engraver by whom Hind lists nineteen prints. He lived in the parish of St Bride's, and his will was probated on 18 March 1652.
The earliest of his plates were made in 1623. Hind thought he died about 1652 on the strength of a plate in Edward Benlowes' Theophila of that year. But, as Hind himself noted, that plate was inserted in the book, and there would remain a problem of twenty years when Droeshout made no plates. The matter has recently been resolved by Christiaan Schuckman, who discovered a group of signed plates by Droeshout made in Madrid between 1635 and 1639 (see Print Quarterly, VIII 1991, pp.40-44). Evidently he had converted to Catholicism, and emigrated to Spain in 1635. Ironically the only fully signed plate made in England (the Shakespeare portrait) gives the Dutch form of his name Droeshout, while two of his Spanish plates anglicise it to Droeswood (the Dutch 'hout' means 'wood').

Bibliography

Hind II pp.351-66 (22 numbers)
Christiaan Schuckman, 'Print Quarterly', VIII 1991, pp.40-44 (prints made in Madrid)
See Javier Blas et al., 'Grabadores extranjeros en la Corte espanola del Barroco', BN Madrid 2011, p.67