Johannes Wierix or Jan Wierix (1549 – Brussels, ca. 1620), was a Flemish engraver, draughtsman and publisher. He was a very accomplished engraver who made prints after his own designs as well as designs by local and foreign artists.
In his early career Johannes was active in Antwerp as an engraver, initially working as a reproductive artist after works by Dürer and other artists. He became employed by the prominent publisher Christophe Plantin in 1569. Johannes became a master engraver registered in the Antwerp Guild of Saint Luke in 1572-1573.
After marrying Elisabeth Bloemsteen in 1576 he soon left her and was recorded in Delft from 1577 to 1579. His famous engraving of beached whales on the beach of Ter Heyde was made by him in 1577. He also received commissions to produce small oval portraits of prominent citizens of Delft. Upon returning to Antwerp in 1579, Johannes Wierix worked not only for Plantin, but also for other publishers such as Hans Liefrinck, Jan-Baptist Vrients, Phillip Galle, Gerard de Jode, Willem and Godevaard van Haecht and Hieronymus Cock’s widow Volcxken Dierix who continued the publishing business after her husband’s death. In addition, he occasionally published his own engravings himself. Johannes Wierix was so much in demand that he could exact such a high price for his work that Plantin was not always able or willing to engage him for a publication project.
Johannes Wierix is last documented in Antwerp in 1594. He is subsequently recorded as living in Brussels where he was employed by the Brussels court of Archduke Ernest of Austria. He may already have moved to Brussels by 1601 as on 28 July of that year he failed to appear in Antwerp in the settlement of a deal involving family property.
Wierix worked on some of the important publications of the late 16th century. This includes a commission by the Jesuits and other militant Counter-Reformation orders on Catholic materials. His prints played an important propagandistic role in the Catholic Church’s recovery of the southern Netherlands. Another important publication he worked on was the set of 23 engraved portraits of artists from the Low Countries authored by Dominicus Lampsonius and published in 1572 under the title Pictorum aliquot celebrium Germaniae inferioris effigies (literal translation: Effigies of some celebrated painters of Lower Germany).
Besides inventing his own compositions, Jan engraved the designs of Frans Floris, Gillis Mostaert and Crispin van den Broeck. Marten de Vos who was one of the most prolific artists in Flanders in the second half of the 16th century, collaborated frequently with Wierix and made designs specially to be engraved by Wierix.