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Hans Sebald Beham

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Hans Sebald Beham

German, (1500–1550)
Sebald Beham was a German painter and printmaker, mainly known for his very small engravings. Born in Nuremberg, he spent the later part of his career in Frankfurt. He was one of the most important of the "Little Masters," the group of German artists making prints in the generation after Dürer. He worked extensively on tiny, highly detailed, engravings, many as small as postage stamps, placing him in the German printmaking school known as the "Little Masters" from the size of their prints. These works he printed and published himself, while his much larger woodcuts were mostly commissioned work. The engravings found a ready market among German bourgeois collectors. He also made prints for use as playing cards and wallpaper.

His engravings cover a range of subjects, but he is especially known for scenes of peasant life, and scenes from classical myth or history, both often with an erotic element. His early work was done under the shadow of Dürer, who was still working in Nuremberg, and one early woodcut "Head of Christ", to which the "AD" monogram was added in the second state (though probably not by Beham), was long misattributed to Dürer by Adam Bartsch and others. He also borrowed from his brother Barthel's rather more original works. In his later work he boldly re-interpreted many of Dürer's most famous prints in works such as his Melancholia of 1539, exploiting the difference in scale between his work and the original. His dark backgrounds may have been inspired by Italian Niello prints.

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