The Rise and Fall of a Great Artist

Hans Rottenhammer (1578-1625) made a name for himself especially as a figural painter and painter of cabinet paintings on copper, which were popular in Rome and Venice as well as Antwerp, Augsburg and Prague. While in Rome between spring 1594 and autumn 1595, Rottenhammer began to cooperate with Paul Bril (1554-1626) and Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625). Brueghel and Bril engaged in landscape painting and Rottenhammer produced the figural staffage for their paintings. As early as 1595, however, each went his own way – Bril stayed in Rome, Brueghel left for Antwerp and Rottenhammer went to Venice where he led a successful painting workshop for more than a decade. Interest in their paintings persisted, and they cooperated from a distance by sending copper plates with paintings in process to one another. Rottenhammer returned to Augsburg in 1606; failing eyesight and alcohol later brought about his personal decline, which had a negative impact on his work and forced him to suspend it temporarily. He spent the last years of his life in a poorhouse. Collectors who sought out Rottenhammer’s artworks included Emperor Rudolf II and Ferdinando Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua. Rottenhammer also worked as an art agent for Rudolf II – among others, he mediated the purchase of the Feast of the Rose Garlands by Albrecht Dürer, one of the chefs-d’oeuvre of the National Gallery in Prague. After returning to Germany, Rottenhammer worked for Count Ernst von Schaumburg, Wilhelm V, Duke of Bavaria, and the Fugger banking family, though this was not his most happy part of his life, neither private, nor as artist.