Born to a family of artists, Hans Sebald Beham created an enormous body of work, including nearly 2,000 prints. His tiny engravings of widely varied subjects put him among the German printmakers whom scholars call the Little Masters. Known for both his intricate craft and his interest in depicting peasant life, Beham was equally comfortable in larger woodcut formats. He also designed playing cards, wallpaper, coats of arms, and patterns for other artists. Beham illuminated a prayerbook for Cardinal Albrecht of Brandenburg, archbishop of Mainz, and also created his only surviving painting for the cardinal.
In 1525 three "godless painters"--Hans Sebald, his brother Barthel Beham, and Georg Pencz--were banished from Nuremberg for asserting that they did not believe in baptism, Christ, or transubstantiation. They were able to return within months, but Beham was exiled again in 1528 for publishing a book believed to plagiarize an Albrecht Dürer manuscript. From about 1532 he worked in Frankfurt.