Hendrick de Keyser

Hendrick de Keyser was born in 1565 in Utrecht, the son of the Utrecht-based master cabinetmaker Cornelis Dirxzoon de Keyser. He was trained by the Utrecht-based architect and sculptor Cornelis Bloemaert. When Bloemaert moved to Amsterdam in 1591 de Keyser followed him. Soon after settling in Amsterdam he began to work for himself. In 1594 or 1595 he was appointed official stonemason and architect of Amsterdam. In this post, together with the bricklayer Cornelis Danckaertszoon and the carpenter Hendrik Staets, he was responsible for the sculpture for all public buildings in the city. He worked in a variety of materials including marble and terracotta and designed many reliefs and decorative elements for buildings.

Later, around 1600, de Keyser also made his name as an architect and in 1612 was appointed City Architect of Amsterdam. He became a leading architect of the Dutch Renaissance and is best known for his design of the first official Protestant church to be built following the Reformation. He also built the Zuiderkerk and Westerkerk in Amsterdam (from 1608 to 1611), The City Hall in Delft (from 1618) and many residences.

In addition to decorative sculptures for buildings, de Keyser also made portrait busts and freestanding sculptures. As a sculptor he was greatly influenced by the Delft-based artist Willem van Tetrode. From 1614 until his death in 1621 de Keyser worked on the tomb of William I Prince of Orange (William the Silent) in the Nieuwe Kerk in Delft, commissioned by the States General. The monument to Desiderius Erasmus in Rotterdam is his best-known work of freestanding sculpture.

Three of his eight children, Pieter, Willem and Hendrick II, also became artists. Following de Keyser’s death in 1621 several of his ongoing projects, such as the City Hall in Delft and the completion of the bronze statue of Erasmus, were continued by his son Pieter.