Self-taught artist Joris Hoefnagel was a pivotal figure in the history of art from the Netherlands, both as the last important Flemish manuscript illuminator and one of the first artists to work in the new genre of still life. A true Renaissance man, Hoefnagel wrote Latin poetry, mastered several languages, played a variety of musical instruments, and sold drawings, in addition to making topographical drawings, maps, oil paintings, and illuminations.
Born to wealthy merchant parents, Hoefnagel traveled to England, France, and Spain in his youth, recording his experiences in topographical drawings. These were later used as models for a six-volume atlas. In the autumn of 1577, after Spanish troops had invaded Antwerp, Hoefnagel journeyed south with cartographer Abraham Ortelius. During this trip, Albert V, duke of Bavaria, hired Hoefnagel as a court artist. It was at this time that Hoefnagel completed his first major work, a multi-volume book of natural history miniatures. In 1591, Hoefnagel was appointed court artist to Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, a collector known not just for his art but for his Kunstkammer, or cabinet of curiosities. For Rudolf, Hoefnagel again demonstrated his astounding technical facility when he added illuminations to a manuscript completed thirty years earlier by the celebrated scribe Georg Bocskay, now in the Getty Museum's collection.