Maerten van Heemskerck – Saint Luke Painting the Virgin

By | February 23, 2017

Maerten van Heemskerck – Saint Luke Painting the Virgin

Saint Luke painting the Virgin – 1532

Saint Luke painting the Virgin 1538 – 1540

There is no use crying over spilled milk.
Maerten van Heemskerck, the painter painting his patron Saint Luke the painter twice, was meant to stay as a boy on his father’s farm in the village of Heemskerk to continue the business and be a farmer for the rest of his life.

But that didn’t happen, as Carel van Manders Schilderboek (Book of Painters from 1604) tells us. The boy helping his father on the farm one day spilled an enormous amount of milk, and his father went so mad at him, accusing him of having done it on purpose, that his mother had to hide him in a haystack and send him away next morning to go and look for a master somewhere in the world.

We can be grateful to these parents, because the world that Maerten van Heemskerck left behind when he died in 1574, was a world enriched with his enormous oeuvre: a large number of portraits, religious and landscape paintings, as well as numerous drawings of classic architecture and sculptures.

Maerten van Heemskerck (or any other spelling he was known under – he was actually called Maerten van Veen, as his father was Jacob van Veen) found his first master Jan Lukasz in Delft, then moved to Haarlem to work in the atelier of Jan van Scorel, who was highly skilled in the innovative Italian painting style that had developed its own version in northern Europe.

In Haarlem, Maerten went to live in the wealthy household of the curate of the Sint Bavochurch, whose family he painted in a portrait sitting at a table.

Not long after, Maertens work was considered to equal that of his master. He decided to go on his Grand Tour to Italy, before leaving he painted his scene Saint Luke painting the Virgin in 1532 as an honorable regard to his associates of the Haarlem guild.

Belvédère Torso – 1535

Van Heemskerck became highly successful in Rome with his paintings and his many drawings of the Classics filling two sketchbooks, that are of enormous value as a testimony and insight of Rome at that time.
His sketches of Saint Peter’s basilica show the church in its rebuilding phase from the original building of Emperor Constantine into the structure of the basilica as we know it today.

Self-portrait and Colosseum – 1553

Change and innovation very often stir up the safety of the known standards, and Van Heemskerck’s way of painting got heavily critisized after his return to the Netherlands, but after a while, he was again highly respected as a skilled portrait and landscape painter.
His self-portrait in front of the Colosseum, painted when he was back in the Netherlands, is world famous.

His second painting of Saint Luke painting the Virgin was commissioned by the Delft Guild of St. Luke for an altarpiece in the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) in Delft.

The painting is now in France in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rennes.

The first St Luke painting the Virgin from 1532 is in the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem, Holland.

Printed reproductions

Canvas Art

St Luke painting the Virgin 1532 – detail

Very precise detail of the painting, showing the great character of St. Luke

Non-fading inks on high-quality canvas utilized


Great Big canvas

St Luke painting the Virgin 1538-1540

Our impression: a quality reproduction of the later St Luke painting – one of the few available online

Alternatively, commission an oil replica on Fabulousmasterpieces.

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