(Netherlands 1571 – 1628)
42.0 x 46.0 cm platemark; 42.5 x 47.0 cm sheet
Jan Muller was a painter and engraver who spent his career working in Amsterdam. He probably learnt the art of engraving from his father, the print publisher, Harman Muller. It has been suggested that Muller trained with the great Dutch engraver Hendrick Goltzius but there is no conclusive evidence for this. However, the two artists did, nonetheless, collaborate on the production of prints and there are common elements to their respective styles. Muller spent some time in Italy between 1594 and 1602 and it is thought that he also visited the imperial court at Prague, which had become a flourishing centre of the arts under Rudolf II. In any case, Muller certainly maintained contacts with Rudolfine court artists such as Bartholomeus Spranger, Adriaen de Vries and Hans von Aachen, reproducing much of their work through engraving.
Muller made 100 engravings but few are based on the artist’s own designs. The majority of his prints are after compositions by Haarlem Mannerists such as Goltzius and Cornelis van Haarlem, as well as the Rudolfine artists mentioned above.
A notable exception is the print of 'Lot and his daughters', of which a painted version by Muller exists in a private collection. Like the painting the print shows the seduction of the elderly Lot by his own daughters following the destruction of the city of Sodom. Muller uses the Bible story to demonstrate his mastery of the nude. With its emphasis on overblown musculature and extreme torsion of the human body, Muller’s engraving typifies the hyper-elegant, anti-classical style of late Dutch Mannerism.
After c1590 Muller mastered and applied Goltzius’s volumetric engraving technique based on a highly formal method of perfectly even parallel and cross-hatched lines that swell and taper. Muller’s dazzling, curvilinear manner of engraving is seen at its best in prints such as this, which represent the culmination of Dutch Mannerism in printmaking.
F.W.H. Hollstein, Dutch and Flemish etchings, engravings and woodcuts c.1450-1700, Amsterdam, 1949. XIV p105, no 10
Adam von Bartsch, Le peintre graveur [21 vols], Vienna, 1803-1821. 64
European prints and drawings 1500-1900, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 30 Aug 2014–02 Nov 2014