Goltzius: The Crippled Hand of One of History’s Best Printmakers
One of the best engravers in the Low Countries, during his life he turned a physical defect to his distinct advantage.
Far less well-known today than the printmakers and painters he admired in his lifetime —among them, Rembrandt and Albrecht Dürer— Hendrick Goltzius (1558- 1617) was a nevertheless a superstar engraver among his contemporaries. According to testimonies of the time, Goltzius (the Latinized version of his paternal surname, Goltz) had to hide his face during walks in Rome, where he’d traveled to absorb the work of Michelangelo, and so as to avoid recognition by a mob of unconditional admirers.
But hiding his face, in fact, meant very little. Any gesture would expose what was one of his most characteristic features: his right hand. A fire when he’d been but one year old, had left Goltzius with severe burns on his right hand which was partially crippled thereafter.
“Goltzius’ defect,” his particular stigma, did nothing to decrease his fame. The artistic quality of his engravings was considered uncommon, and many attributed his virtuosity to the sui generis characteristic of his right hand. This was so much so that, according to Karel Van Mandar, a friend and biographer, the artist drew with his left hand, but for engraving he used exclusively the right. A major historian, A. Hyatt, held that it was precisely the disposition of this crippled hand which allowed Goltzius to grasp more firmly the engraving burin, “forcing him to draw with the far greater muscles of the arm and shoulder, such that he dominated the turn of the lines.”
Goltzius acquired the better part of his dexterity in his youth, in his father’s workshop. This was dedicated to producing paintings on glass and, under his father’s tutelage, the future engraver learned to adapt his special physical characteristics and put them to the service of a limitless artistic ambition.
The fact that Goltzius was aware that his deformity had become an advantage, that is, it’d become something special, is evident in the drawings and engravings in which he portrayed his own right hand. Virtuosity and perfectionism in the line is apparent in these engravings as in those depicting to the Four Disgracers of Greek mythology (Phaeton, Ixion, Icarus and Tantalum). His story —recounted in the Peter Greenaway film, Goltzius and the Pelican Company— is an inspiring testimony to the overcoming of physical limitation and how it can become a gift.
Pictorial spiritism (a woman's drawings guided by a spirit)
There are numerous examples in the history of self-taught artists which suggest an interrogation of that which we take for granted within the universe of art. Such was the case with figures like
Astounding fairytale illustrations from Japan
Fairy tales tribal stories— are more than childish tales. Such fictions, the characters of which inhabit our earliest memories, aren’t just literary works with an aesthetic and pleasant purpose. They
A cinematic poem and an ode to water: its rhythms, shapes and textures
Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water. - John Keats Without water the equation of life, at least life as we know it, would be impossible. A growing hypothesis holds that water, including the
Watch beauty unfold through science in this "ode to a flower" (video)
The study of the microscopic is one of the richest, most aesthetic methods of understanding the world. Lucky is the scientist who, upon seeing something beautiful, is able to see all of the tiny
To invent those we love or to see them as they are? Love in two of the movies' favorite scenes
So much has been said already, of “love” that it’s difficult to add anything, much less something new. It’s possible, though, perhaps because even if you try to pass through the sieve of all our
This app allows you to find and preserve ancient typographies
Most people, even those who are far removed from the world of design, are familiar with some type of typography and its ability to transform any text, help out dyslexics or stretch an eight page paper
The secrets of the mind-body connection
For decades medical research has recognized the existence of the placebo effect — in which the assumption that a medication will help produces actual physical improvements. In addition to this, a
The sea as infinite laboratory
Much of our thinking on the shape of the world and the universe derives from the way scientists and artists have approached these topics over time. Our fascination with the mysteries of the
Sharing and collaborating - natural movements of the creative being
We might sometimes think that artistic or creative activity is, in essence, individualistic. The Genesis of Judeo-Christian tradition portrays a God whose decision to create the world is as vehement
John Malkovich becomes David Lynch (and other characters)
John Malkovich and David Lynch are, respectively, the actor and film director who’ve implicitly or explicitly addressed the issues of identity and its porous barriers through numerous projects. Now