Portrait of Heinrich Aldegrever,
From the series Pictorum aliquot celebrium praecipuae Germaniae inferioris effigies (Effigies of some celebrated painters mainly of Lower Germany)
Dutch, c. 1580–1629
Published in 1610 by Hendrik Hondius I
From the little information available regarding the early life of Simon Frisius we can gather that he began his career as an engraver of calligraphy, working in Paris just before the turn of the seventeenth century for French engrosser Guillaume Le Gangneur (whose reputation today rests almost solely on the lawsuit he brought against Frisius in 1600 for breach of contract). His efforts as an artist are more fully documented only from the time when he became associated with the Dutch printmaker and publisher Hendrik Hondius, who first engaged Frisius in 1610 to etch twenty-four of the plates for his Effigies.
Although Effigies featured mostly Dutch artists, the use of Germaniae inferioris in the title, alluding to an ancient Roman province that incorporated portions of present day Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and Luxemberg, allows for a slightly broader scope. Thus the inclusion of Heinrich Aldegrever, who was the most important printmaker in Westphalia, a Duchy located in what is today northwest Germany. The inscription reads:
Heinrich Aldegrever, Westphalian,
Painter and Sculptor
This Aldegrever is not an uneducated Westphalian.
He was famous for images of kings and learned men.
He painted well the tailor king,
who bound Westphalia with the subtle thread of genius.
(The “tailor king” was John of Leiden, an early protestant leader who established a short-lived Anabaptist realm, with himself as king, in the Westphalian town of Münster.)