Jacob Mortenssøn Maschius

Approximately 1630-1678
There can be many reasons why a person continues to live on in history long after his or her own time. In the case of Jacob Maschius, his reputation rests on a copperplate engraving!
There is little specific information about Maschius himself. It is believed probable that he was born in Trondheim around 1630. Later he was in Bergen, where he graduated from the Katedralskolen there in 1651. After years of study in Copenhagen he returned to Norway in 1659. Here he had connections to Kongsberg and the silver mine there, and worked as a tutor, drawing artist and surveyor.
In 1661 he visited Trondheim, his alleged town of birth. During this visit he made two copper engravings with Nidaros Cathedral as the motif. One of these shows the West Front with its sculptures. When the Cathedral was to be restored 200 years later, as parts had deteriorated, Maschius' engraving was of great value as a model for the work. But the most famous Maschius engraving from Trondheim is from 1674. This is the first known large drawing of Trondheim, and shows the town seen from the east side of the river. There is some doubt as to whether the picture actually is of contemporary Trondheim or whether the engraving has been made according to sketches of a somewhat older origin. With all its details, it is still a highly valuable documentation of Trondheim in the seventeenth century, even more so because the town fire in 1681 consumed almost all the buildings shown in the engraving.
Jacob Maschius later worked some years in Bergen, where he also made some engravings. His life ended in Jølster, where he was the vicar from 1676. He died two months after he married Maren Finde, in the summer of 1678.
In addition to his visual art Maschius also wrote poetry. It is therefore easy to include him in the same Baroque tradition as Petter Dass and other likeminded members of clergy from the same era.
Recommended reading: W. Swensen: Iacob Maschius, DKNVS' meetings 1960, v. 33 no. 9

Author: Einar Rædergård