Master of the Housebook

Datesactive about 1470 - 1500
RolesArtist, Illuminator

Little is known of his origins or history, but the Master of the Housebook is considered one of the most gifted Northern European artists of the late 1400s. His drawings and designs provide a fascinating window onto everyday life in the later Middle Ages.

The Master of the Housebook is named after a renowned manuscript, the Medieval Housebook, created in southern Germany around 1475. This lavish volume features pen-and-ink drawings, including some in color, illustrating life in and around a princely court. Widely divergent subjects are featured: images of weapons, allegories of the planets, tournament and hunting scenes, landscapes and castles, and coats of arms. Outside of this manuscript, few drawings by this artist appear to have survived. He is also known as the Master of the Amsterdam Cabinet after eighty drypoint etchings in the print room of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. About half of his prints have religious subjects, but the Master of the Housebook also sensitively captured children playing, music making, and amorous young lovers.

Only a single painting is widely accepted as by the Master of the Housebook, but several religious scenes are attributed to him. He is also believed to have created many stained-glass windows and played a major role in the emergence of secular subjects, such as courtly love, in stained glass in the late 1400s. His stained-glass designs were copied and adapted for decades and ultimately had an impact on the stained glass of Albrecht Dürer.