The Westphalian Heinrich Aldegrever (*1502 in Paderborn †1555-1561 in Soest) is considered one of the major Kleinmeister of the German Renaissance on account of the quality, innovative motifs and contemporary relevance of his many engravings.
The term "Kleinmeister" was most likely coined in the second half of the 17th century by the artist and art historian Joachim von Sandrat. It refers to the small-format prints executed by Aldegrever and his contemporaries in the southern German region (e.g. Georg Pencz), engravings which were often smaller than the palm of a hand and even attained the size of postage stamps. The label sometimes sounds derogatory, particularly when used in the context of the genre's supreme exponent, Albrecht Dürer, yet the word rather conveys the meaning of "masterly even on a tiny scale", as stressed by the Dresden art historian Hans Wolfgang Singer in his 1908 monograph on the Kleinmeister.
The strength of the maestros of the miniature engraving is not so much in their favourable retrospective comparison with Dürer as in their role in the evolution of engravings as a genre and the invention of the modern pictorial narrative. They form an important bridge between the heyday of the German Renaissance in the early 1500s and the high point of Mannerism at the end of that century. The influence of the Kleinmeister on the generation that came after them is seen in the prodigious print runs of their works, their wide distribution and the adoption of many of their framed scenes in art and craftwork (as with Italian maiolica, illustrated here for comparison).
The 'cabinet exhibition' is the latest instalment in the series 'Cabinet in the Gallery', presented by the Kupferstichkabinett.
Presented by: Kupferstichkabinett
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