German painter, engraver and draftsman, Heinrich Aldegrever was born in 1502 in Paderborn, North Germany. In the late 1520s he relocated to Soest and is known to have painted parts of the “Wiesenkirche” there. Aldegrever is one of a group of German Renaissance artists known as the “Little Masters”, because of the tiny size of his prints. Initially, he trained as a goldsmith and produced a large number of ornamental designs for ironwork during the early part of his career. These designs included sheaths for swords, daggers and domestic knives. The better part of his career, however, was devoted to making engravings of mythological and Biblical subjects such as the “Twelve Labors of Hercules” and the “Story of Adam and Eve”.
Aldegrever’s work shows the influence of Albrecht Dürer, whose work was known throughout Europe, but unlike Dürer, who specialized in intricate line work, Aldegrever specialized in the optical effects of light and shadow. His work is distinguished by slim, elongated figures and agitated drapery and his etchings demonstrate a wide range of German and Italian sources. His oeuvre consists of nearly 300 engravings, produced between 1527 and 1555 and nearly all of them are of an astonishingly small scale.