COORNHERT, Dirck Volkertsz.
(b. 1522, Amsterdam, d. 1590, Gouda)


Dirck Volkertsz. Coornhert (also spelt Cuerenhert), Dutch printmaker, poet, writer, theologian and philosopher. His work as a printmaker began in Haarlem in 1547, when he made a woodcut for a lottery poster after a design of Maarten van Heemskerck. From then until 1559 Coornhert worked as Heemskerck's principal engraver. Initially he etched his plates, but during the 1550s he turned to engraving. He was possibly also responsible for the woodcuts after Heemskerck and the publication of Heemskerck's early prints. In addition, he engraved designs by Willem Thibaut (1524–97) in 1556–57, Lambert Lombard in 1556 and Frans Floris in 1554–57. During this period Philip Galle was his pupil.

In 1560 Coornhert temporarily stopped his engraving activities, set up a print publishing house, became a clerk and devoted himself to his literary work. In 1567 he was arrested for political reasons but managed to escape to Cologne in 1568. During his exile, which lasted until 1576 and which he spent in various German towns (including Xanten), he resumed work as an engraver in order to make a living. His illustrations for Jan van der Noot's Olympiade date from 1571. He also made various series of engravings after designs by Adriaen de Weerdt. In Germany Hendrick Goltzius became his pupil and followed him to the Netherlands in 1576.

Coornhert, who often signed with the monogram DVC, faithfully followed the style of the preparatory drawings and in doing so created rather woolly effects. His importance lies primarily in the fact that he managed to inspire the artists whose designs he engraved to create images that expressed his own ethical and religious ideas. Many of Heemskerck's allegorical images, for example, are based on Coornhert's philosophy of life, as are the religious allegories designed by Adriaen de Weerdt and the young Goltzius. Many of the themes of his prints are paralleled in his literary work.

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