Maarten van Heemskerck - The adoration of the kings (1545)

The adoration of the kings

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Today, Maarten van Heemskerck as a draughtsman, is known in particular for his numerous designs for engravers and sketchbook drawings which depict antique ruins and sculptures he saw in Rome. In fact, he was one of the first northern artists to view them with his own eyes. His detailed pen and ink drawings produced for the best engravers of his time are widespread and easy to identify, as he signed and dated practically all of them.

So far, very few preparatory drawings for paintings by his hand have been found. Therefore, the recent attribution of this design for an altarpiece to Maarten van Heemskerck is very exciting. Remarkably, this drawing has a signature in the lower right-hand corner, which has faded over time. However, because its expressive style and the abundant use of the brush for grey washes differ so completely from what we expect of Van Heemskerck, experts continued to search for other possible creators and regarded the signature as a later addition.

This drawing was studied for the AGORA Drawings on Web project.


Bibliographic description

Materials, technique and dimensions: pen and brown ink, grey wash, 298 x 194 mm

Inventory number: S.III 40235

Full description



Francis Abbott, Edinburgh (1801-1893); his sale, Brussels (Fiévez) 22-23 November 1922, lot 244 (as ‘M. Coxcy’)


Selective bibliography

I.M. Veldman, ‘Designs for Altarpieces by Maarten van Heemskerck’, in: Oud Holland, vol. 128 (2015) 1, pp. 29-33, fig. 13