Willem Jacobsz van Heemskerk

Dates1613 - 1692
RolesArtist
NationalityDutch

Although a cloth merchant by trade, Willem Jacobsz. van Heemskerk spent his spare time writing poetry and diamond-point engraving calligraphy on glass vessels, a hobby of many educated amateurs in the seventeenth century. He was also a playwright; his tragedy "The Hebrew Heroine" was staged in Amsterdam in 1647. His literary interests are seen in the varied and multilingual aphorisms, poetic sentiments, toasts, and biblical quotations that he engraved in fluid lettering on bottles, dishes, and drinking glasses.

During his long life Heemskerk engraved hundreds of glass objects. He usually signed his glasses, often stating the month or date he finished the work and his age. Heemskerk was also an outspoken member of the Protestant Remonstrant sect, and many of his glass inscriptions reflect his religious convictions. Towards the end of his life, the inscriptions reflect his keen sense of mortality, with phrases such as "The lamp of life is but a vapor."

Heemskerk seems to have kept most of the glasses he made. His grandson Leonardus left an inventory of personal effects that lists nearly 250 of Willem's calligraphic glasses. In 1771, the year Leonardus died, much of this collection was sold at auction in Leiden.

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