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Georg Pencz

Nuremberg circa 1500 – Leipzig 1550

A German painter and engraver, Georg Pencz is mentioned in 1523 as a “Burgher of Nuremberg”, but it is highly unlikely he was actually born there. We know that Pencz entered the studio of Albrecht Dürer at the beginning of the 1520s and that he was considered one of his best pupils. Just like his master, he seems to have visited Italy once or twice, where he probably had the chance to admire the works of Mantegna and Jules Romain in Mantua, and visit the Eternal City.

In 1525, his refusal to believe in Christ, baptism and transubstantiation led to his banishment from the city of Nuremberg. However, he was recalled at the end of the same year. In 1532, he was given the title “painter of Nuremberg”. His engravings were recognised and appreciated, and just like the Beham brothers, Pencz is considered as one of the “Little Masters” owing to the format of his engraved works. In 1550, Duke Albert of Prussia made Pencz his court painter, but the latter died in Leipzig before ever reaching the Duke. His pictorial production is considerable, contrary to the Beham brothers, with whom he has often been compared owing to the subjects of his engraved works and his beliefs, which led to his expulsion from Nuremberg. His highly popular portraits clearly indicate an Italian influence. Italian art did indeed have a significant impact on this German artist. The numerous portraits he painted certainly reveal a mannerist influence. Through their opulence and a taste for cold light, Pencz’ portraits are comparable to Bronzino’s work. However, the figures’ sharp look and the emanation of a certain intensity, show that this Germanic painter was as comfortable with Dürer as he was with Italian art.