Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Droeshout, Martin

DROESHOUT, MARTIN (fl. 1620–1651), engraver, belonged to a Netherlandish family, of which numerous members were settled in England. In the registers of the Dutch Church, Austin Friars, published by W. J. C. Moens, F.S.A. (Lymington, 1884), there are several entries concerning the family, the name being spelt Droeshout, Droshaut, Drossaert, Drussoit, &c. From these, and from a return of foreigners living in London in 1593 (Hamper, Life of Sir William Dugdale, appendix), it appears that about 1590 Michael Droeshout of Brussels, ‘a graver in copper, which he learned in Brussels,’ after sojourning in Antwerp, Friesland, and Zeeland, came to London, where John Droeshout, painter, and Mary, or Malcken, his wife, had been settled for some twenty years, who seem to have been his parents. Michael Droeshout, from whose hand there exists a curious allegorical engraving of the ‘Gunpowder Plot,’ married on 17 Aug. 1595 Susanna van der Ersbek of Ghent, and, among other children, was father of John Droeshout, baptised 16 May 1596, and of Martin Droeshout, baptised 26 April 1601. There was also a Martin Droeshout, apparently brother of Michael, who was twice married at the Dutch Church, viz. on 26 Oct. 1602 to Anna Winterbeke of Brussels, and 30 Oct. 1604 to Janneker Molyns of Antwerp. He was granted denization on 20 Jan. 1608, being described as ‘Martin Droeshout, painter, of Brabant’ (Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser., James I). A Martin Droeshout was admitted a member of the Dutch Church in 1624, and it is with one of these, probably the younger, that we may identify the artist known throughout the literary world as the engraver of the portrait of William Shakespeare prefixed to the folio edition of his works published in 1623, with the well-known lines by Ben Jonson affixed below it. This is considered by Mr. George Scharf, C.B., F.S.A. (‘On the Principal Portraits of Shakespeare,’ Notes and Queries, 23 April 1864), as having the first claims to authenticity, since it is professedly a portrait of the great dramatist. He further says that ‘a general feeling of sharpness and coarseness pervades Droeshout's plate, and the head looks very large and prominent with reference to the size of the page and the type-letters around it; but there is very little to censure with respect to the actual drawing of the features. On the contrary, they have been drawn and expressed with great care. Droeshout probably worked from a good original, either a “limning” or crayon-drawing, which having served its purpose became neglected and is now lost.’ Besides the portrait of Shakespeare, Droeshout engraved numerous other portraits, some of which are of extreme rarity, and also title-pages for booksellers. His engravings are executed in a stiff and dry manner, which, however, occasionally attains to some excellence; there may be instanced the full-length portraits of George Villiers, duke of Buckingham, and of James, marquis of Hamilton. Among other portraits were John Fox, Mountjoy Blount, earl of Newport, General William Fairfax, Sir Thomas Overbury, Dr. Donne, Hilkiah Crooke, and others. In the print room at the British Museum are some rare sets of engravings of the ‘Sibyls’ and the ‘Seasons.’ Contemporary with Martin Droeshout, and pursuing the same profession in a similar but inferior style, was John Droeshout (1596–1652), who may be identified with the John Droeshout mentioned above as an elder brother of Martin Droeshout. He was employed by booksellers, for whom he engraved portraits of Arthur Johnston, John Babington, Richard Elton, John Danes, Jeffrey Hudson, and others, besides other frontispieces and broadsides. He also engraved a set of plates to ‘Lusitania Liberata,’ by Don Antonio de Souza, including some portraits of the kings of Portugal. In his will, dated 12 Jan. 1651–2, and proved 18 March 1651–2 (P. C. C., Somerset House, 55, Bowyer), he describes himself as ‘of St. Bride's, Fleet Street, London, Ingraver,’ and mentions his wife Elizabeth, his nephew Martin, his two sons-in-law, Isaac Daniell and Thomas Alford, and his servant or apprentice, Thomas Stayno.

[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Nagler's Monogrammisten, iii. 2243, iv. 1733; Granger's Biogr. Hist. of England; Bromley's Cat. of Engraved English Portraits; Lowndes's Bibl. Man.; information from Mr. W. J. C. Moens, F.S.A.; authorities cited above.]

L. C.