Nikolaus Knüpfer

Datesabout 1603 - 1655
BornLeipzig, Germany
DiedUtrecht, The Netherlands

Almost everything known of Nikolaus Knüpfer's life is based on an inscription on a single engraved portrait dated 1642. After initial training in Leipzig and elsewhere, in 1630 Knüpfer moved to Utrecht, where he studied with Mannerist painter Abraham Bloemaert. Aside from a possible trip to The Hague in the late 1640s, Knüpfer remained in Utrecht. In 1637 he joined the Guild of Saint Luke, married, and received an important royal commission for three battle scenes, now lost. He painted a few genre scenes and portraits but concentrated primarily on small-scale history paintings.

The rederijkertheater, the local rhetoricians' guilds that put on amateur performances, inspired his work. Knüpfer often created stage-like compositions with flights of steps leading to a dais where a ruler or judge was enthroned. Another source for his compositions was a book called Toneel van de mannelicke achtbaerheyt(The Theater of Manly Respectability), illustrated by Adriaen van de Venne.

Knüpfer's paintings were characterized by sketchy technique and loose brushwork. His warm tones and dramatic chiaroscuro recall Rembrandt van Rijn's early style. Knüpfer is also thought to have painted the figures in Utrecht artist Jan Both's mythological and biblical scenes. Based on stylistic similarities, Knüpfer was probably Jan Steen's teacher.

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