Cornelis Engebrechtsz. was the first important painter from the city of Leiden. His large, prolific workshop trained many leading painters, including his son Pieter Cornelisz. Kunst and Lucas van Leyden, whose workshop surpassed Engebrechtsz.'s around 1520. Engebrechtsz.'s acclaim may have attracted students from outside Leiden. When they brought to Leiden the Mannerist style then popular in Antwerp, Engebrechtsz. incorporated selected elements into his own art.
Little is known of Engebrechtsz.'s training, and few of his early works survive. As Leiden's preeminent painter, Engebrechtsz. earned commissions from the town council and other important institutions, though he painted mainly biblical subjects. Judging by the inheritance quarrels, Engebrechtsz. had amassed a large estate by his death.
Exaggerated emotionalism and monumental compositions populated by small, slender figures in pronounced contrapposto poses characterized Engebrechtsz.'s mature Mannerist style. He favored warm colors and enameled glazes applied in many layers to create glistening surfaces. His few independent portraits were rooted in close observation of the sitters' distinctive features and their setting.