L. & I. J. White


Tools and Trades in Art

  Jost Amman and The Book of Trades    

Jost Amman is considered as one of the best professional wood-engravers in Germany between 1560 and 1590.  He was born on 13 June 1539 in Zürich, Switzerland.  Jost was the youngest son of the scholar and choirmaster Johann Jakob Amman.  Jost studied at the Collegium Carolinum where his father was a professor.  As his brother Josua (1531–64), who became a goldsmith, Jost did not take up a scholarly career but was apprenticed to a painter of stained-glass pictures in Zürich.

As a journeyman Jost arrived in Basel in 1559, where he worked as "Visierer" or "Scheibenrißzeichner", which means that he made original sketches, drafts and drawings on order and from requirements from customers. The draft was then passed to the engraver or painter, sculptor etc. who worked from the draft. Amman may have spent some time in France, since his early works show a close resemblance to French book illustrations.

Jost Amman moved to Nuremberg about 1561, where he worked with Virgil Solis (1514-1562) and was taught wood-cutting and etching.  Virgil Solis was one of Nuremberg's most productive printmakers and book illustrators.  After Solis's death in 1562 Amman took over his workshop and the partnership with Solis's publisher, Sigmund Feyerabend.  In 1577 Amman became burgher of Nuremberg and by 1581 he was well established and famous.  Jost Amman died on 17 March 1591 in Nuremberg.

After Amman wood engraving rapidly declined in Germany and was more or less replaced by copper engraving.  Amman’s wood engravings are full of detail, particularly in the famous ‘Ständebuch’, and the interiors of workshops etc. have the tools and appliances clearly drawn.

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