(b. 1539, Zürich, d. 1591, Nürnberg)


Swiss draughtsman, woodcutter, engraver, etcher and painter. He was the youngest son of the noted scholar and Chorherr in Zurich, Johann Jakob Amman, a friend of Ulrich Zwingli and Konrad Gessner. Although a successful pupil at the renowned Collegium Carolinum where his father was a professor, Jost, like his brother Josua (1531-64), who became a goldsmith, did not take up a scholarly career. As early as 1556-57 his copies of prints by other artists, for example Dürer and Virgil Solis, show an independent and original approach. For his apprenticeship Amman may have been in Basle or Zurich, but he probably spent some time in Paris or Lyon, since his early works show a close similarity to French book illustrations.

In 1561 Amman settled in Nuremberg, where he worked with Virgil Solis. After Solis's death in 1562, Amman began a lifelong partnership with Solis's publisher, adapting himself to every task and changing his style according to his employer's demands. The era's most prolific book illustrator, Amman illustrated at least fifty books for him alone. These projects included biblical compositions, widely reprinted scenes of tradespeople, and an artists' instruction book; many served as pattern books for later artists. He also made ornamental designs and etchings, including over a hundred portraits for an aristocratic Nuremberg family. A pupil said that Amman's drawings from one four-year period would have filled a hay wagon.

By 1581 Amman was famous. He painted the Elector Ludwig VI on his deathbed in Heidelberg, designed the Würzburg University church portal, and taught drawing to an English earl. He also designed stained glass and jewelry. Still he lived in constant poverty. Shortly before his death, knowing that estate taxes would bankrupt his family, he plead with rich relatives in Zurich for help.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.