Jan and Casper Luyken, book illustrators > Jan Luyken (1649-1712), illustrator and poet


Jan Luyken was born on 16th April 1649 in Amsterdam, the fifth child of the Mennonite school teacher Casper Luyken and his wife Hester Coores. At the age of 18, he apprenticed himself to the painter Martin Saeghmolen. However, quite shortly after the latter’s death in 1669, Jan exchanged the paint brush for an etching needle. With the help of Coenraet Decker, he became skilled in the art of engraving and etching. During his lifetime Jan Luyken already managed to achieve great renown. To this day, he numbers among the most important illustrators of his time, together with Romeyn de Hooghe, Coenraet Decker´s master.

Arnold Houbraken en Pieter Sluyter, Portret van Jan Luyken, 1712

Just as Romeyn de Hooghe, Jan Luyken drew on his own imagination for almost all of his book illustrations. Daily life was his main source of inspiration; only on rare occasions did he use somebody else’s print to serve as a example.

Jan Luyken made his debut with four prints, published separately. Then, in 1678, the first book he illustrated appeared, called Schat der Zielen, carrying three prints of his hand. In the years to come, he was to make a few thousand more book illustrations.


Besides being a skilled etcher, Jan Luyken was also a most deserving poet. His first, rather amorous songbook, Duytse Lier, appeared in 1671. In these young, merry years, Jan had somewhat strayed from his strict religious upbringing, as can be seen clearly in his poems. Shortly after this booklet appeared, he married his sweetheart, Maria de Ouden whose praises he sang in Duytse Lier. But a few years later Jan Luyken saw the "light", possibly under the influence of the German mystic Jacob Böhme, and became very pious. From that time on, Jan Luyken only published devotional works, often with a didactic drift. Most of these were collected in emblem books. In these books, the symbolic prints (the emblems) were accompanied by a motto and a caption, mostly in verse. This kind of publication was, of course, made for him, as he was able to combine his talents as an illustrator/etcher and a poet. All in all, sixteen of his works appeared in print, five of which after his death. He did not himself illustrate either the first one – the Duytse Lier, mentioned above – or the last one, Het Overvloeyend Herte. The latter collection of poems was not published until 1767, long after his death, and was illustrated by Cornelis van Noorde.

Go to an overview of Jan Luyken's works or read more about Casper Luyken.

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