Art History Pieter Lastman
Amy Golahny
  • LAST REVIEWED: 12 January 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 April 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199920105-0080


An Amsterdam painter of historical, religious, and mythological subjects, Pieter Pietersz. Lastman (b. 1583–d. 1633) is now recognized as a brilliant initiator of clearly composed narratives that offer a psychologically complex interpretation of their themes. Within his Amsterdam milieu, he is the most gifted of a group of history painters, including François Venant (b. 1591/2–d. 1636), Jan Tengnagel (b. 1584–d. 1635), Willem van Nieulandt II (b. 1584–d. 1635), Jan Symonsz. Pynas (b. 1581–d. 1631), and Pieter Isaaczs.(b. 1569–d. 1625). A Catholic, Lastman never married. One brother, Claes Pietersz. (b. 1586–d. 1625), was a painter and printmaker; Lastman himself made twelve etchings of costume studies, and several of his compositions were published by others. Another brother, Seger Pietersz. Coninck (b. 1575–d. 1650) was a goldsmith. In 1611, he designed one of the fifteen stained-glass windows for the Zuiderkerk in Amsterdam, no longer extant but known in a preparatory drawing (Berlin, Kupferstichkabinet) and painted copy by Thomas de Keyser (1660; Paris, Lugt Collection). Three paintings were commissioned for Christian IV of Denmark as part of a larger series, and a Finding of Moses, now lost, belonged to the Stadholder Frederik Hendrik in 1632. A number of Amsterdam inventories from the mid-17th to early 18th centuries include paintings by Lastman, often in collections that also featured Rembrandt, Jan Lievens, and their circle. Lastman’s work was seminal in the paintings of his two famed pupils, Rembrandt and Lievens. Despite such success during his lifetime, his reputation ebbed during the decades following his death. Although few early works survive, they demonstrate a more naturalistic style than that of his mannerist teacher Gerrit Pietersz. Sweelink (b. 1566–d. c. 1612). While in Italy (1603 to 1607), Lastman traveled extensively, and studied ancient sculpture and Renaissance and current art, whose motifs appear in his own work. He must have produced many more drawings than have survived, which served him for individual figures and animals occasionally as interchangeable motifs in various paintings. His paintings demonstrate narrative clarity, archaeological exactitude, and textual erudition. In the present state of Dutch art history research, this inventive method has been discussed with respect to the rhetorical terms. Within this approach, Lastman was imaginative and theatrical.

General Overviews

Studies treating Lastman’s work in quantity are few, but noteworthy. Freise 1911 remains the only attempt at a catalogue of all then-known works by the artist, as Seifert 2011 treats primarily the history paintings and their intellectual background. Tümpel and Schatborn 1991 and Seifert, et al. 2006 are one-person exhibition catalogues, which selectively present his paintings and drawings. Broos 1994 surveys the literature up to that year.

  • Broos, Ben. “Lastman, Pieter.” Oxford Art Online. 1994.

    A brief and excellent overview of Lastman, with select bibliography up to 1994.

  • Freise, Kurt. Pieter Lastman: Sein Leben und seine Kunst. Leipzig: Verlag von Klinkhardt & Biermann, 1911.

    The first substantial treatment of Lastman. Provides a catalogue raisonné, documentation, and sources; this work remains a valuable resource. In German.

  • Seifert, Christian Tico. Pieter Lastman: Studien zu Leben und Werk; Mit einem kritischen Verzeichnis der Werke mit Themen aus der antiken Mythologie und Historie. Petersberg, Germany: Michael Imhof Verlag, 2011.

    Appearing a century after Freise 1911, this authoritative study appraises Lastman’s achievement and includes full bibliography and documentation. Concentrating on the historical and mythological paintings, the author correlates a number of Lastman’s paintings with their textual sources in contemporary publications, and also with drawings. In German.

  • Seifert, Christian T., Martina Sitt, and Adriaan E. Waiboer. Pieter Lastman: In Rembrandts Schatten? Munich: Hirmer Verlag, 2006.

    As the title suggests, Lastman may be considered as an artist independent from his usual identity as Rembrandt’s teacher. This exhibition catalogue contains essays by foremost scholars who analyze select paintings by Lastman, and an essay examining how Lastman’s paintings were appropriated by Rembrandt. In German.

  • Tümpel, Astrid, and Peter Schatborn. Peter Lastman: Leermeester van Rembrandt/ Peter Lastman: The Man Who Taught Rembrandt. Amsterdam: Het Rembrandthuis, 1991.

    The catalogue accompanying the first exhibition devoted to Lastman presents the artist as an innovator, yet emphasizes his identity as Rembrandt’s teacher. The presentation of thirty-seven drawings by or attributed to Lastman is a significant discussion of the role of drawings in his work. In English and Dutch.

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