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Hans von Aachen's renowned cosmopolitan Mannerist style originated humbly: he first trained with a minor painter in his native Cologne, and he took his name from his father's hometown. He probably joined the Cologne painters' guild before leaving for Italy around 1574.
After a stay in Venice, von Aachen was soon in Rome, learning from a circle of Northern European artists. He also painted portraits in Florence. Back in Germany by 1587, he began to gain fame for history pictures and psychologically sensitive portraits.
In 1592 Emperor Rudolf II of Prague named Von Aachen imperial painter in absentia. Four years later he moved to Prague, serving as painter, art dealer, and diplomat while also completing commissions for clients in Munich and Augsburg. He frequently journeyed abroad on diplomatic missions and to purchase pictures for his insatiable patron. After Rudolf's death in 1612, von Aachen worked for his successor, Emperor Matthias.
Von Aachen's Prague paintings reflect Rudolf's desire for sensuality, with smoothly modeled, elongated figures arranged in elegant poses, often including a nude woman seen from behind. His style combined an idealization indebted to Roman and Florentine Mannerism with brilliant Venetian color and Dutch realism. The many engravings published after his designs spread von Aachen's influence.