b. about 1583 Amsterdam, The Netherlands, d. 1633 Amsterdam, The Netherlands
The son of a goldsmith, Pieter Lastman became known as one of the most important artists of his day for his ability to paint small cabinet pictures. At the age of nineteen, Lastman went to Italy, where he spent five years. After he returned to his native Amsterdam, his painting style exhibited striking changes. He began to use strong contrasts of light and shade that intensified the drama of the scene and to specialize in narrative subjects from the Bible, mythology, and Roman history. His reform of history painting in Amsterdam in the 1600s--presenting well-characterized figures at the dramatic climax of a story--and his role as Rembrandt's teacher ensured his fame during his lifetime. His paintings commanded high prices, and his name was mentioned as one of Amsterdam's most important painters in a 1618 hymn celebrating the arts of the city.