Portrait of a Woman of the Slosgin Family of Cologne
Barthel Bruyn the Younger (German, ca. 1530–before 1610)
Oil on oak
Shaped top, 17 3/4 x 14 1/8 in. (45.1 x 35.9 cm)
The Friedsam Collection, Bequest of Michael Friedsam, 1931
Not on view
The coat of arms behind the sitter's left shoulder identifies her as a member of a prominent family of merchants in Cologne, the Slosgins (variously spelled), whose progenitor, Johann Slosgin of Nijmegen, settled in Cologne in 1415. According to the inscription at the upper left, the sitter was thirty-four when the painting was made in 1557 and must therefore have been born in 1522 or 1523. Her concealed hair and the white covering affixed to the front of her bonnet indicate that she was married. In 1557, three daughters of Peter Slosgin (d. 1536) and Margaretha von Bergen (d. 1571) come into consideration: Catharina, Elisabeth, and Ursula. Catharina married Heinrich Kannegiesser (d. 1571), a future mayor of Cologne, in 1540; hers is the only marriage among the three sisters of which the date is known. Elisabeth's first husband was Johann Anholtt and her second Dr. Martin Krufft Crudener (d. 1612). Ursula was the first wife of Johann Helman (ca. 1530–1579). The lack of additional biographical data makes it impossible at the moment to narrow down the identification of the sitter. It is likely that the portrait was paired with a pendant of the husband, now lost.
Friedländer (1912) was the first to attribute this work to Barthel (Bartholomäus) Bruyn the Younger, who took over his father's workshop in Cologne after the latter's death in 1555. Tümmers (1970) affirmed the attribution, having compared the painting with Barthel Bruyn the Younger's signed portrait of Peter Ulner (LandesMuseum Bonn), and Löw (2002) accepted the younger Bruyn's authorship in her study of the Bruyns.
Along with the Crucifixion panel of 1556–57 for Hermann von Weinsberg (Kölnisches Stadtmuseum), which is documented as by the artist, the Ulner portrait, dated 1560, forms the basis for attributions to the younger Bruyn. While the former, which contains donor portraits, is consistent in style with the Museum's picture and supports the attribution, the only slightly later Ulner portrait is more apt for comparison, given its similar format and better state of preservation. It is the left half of a diptych with a Christ Carrying the Cross. The likeness of Ulner exhibits the same enamel-like finish and pale pinkish flesh tone, which in the Museum's picture is somewhat yellowed by discolored varnish. It shows a strikingly similar approach to the modeling and delineation of the facial features, hands, and jewelry. In addition, the exaggerated spread of the creases at the base of Ulner's middle finger is present also in the Slosgin portrait; it seems to have been an idiosyncrasy of Barthel Bruyn the Younger's approach to hands and appears in other works attributed to him.
The sitter's costume is typical of that found in other female portraits by Barthel the Younger. Only the ermine sleeves are unusual, but they do find a precedent on one of the female donors portrayed in Barthel Bruyn the Elder's Passion Altarpiece of the Siegen Family of about 1540 (Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg), and they appear again in the Portrait of a Woman, Probably Joanna von Salm, née von Römer, another work of the younger Bruyn. In the MMA picture the simple modeling of the red foresleeves with highlights placed along the edges, giving the forearm a flat appearance, is encountered, for example, in the artist's pendant portraits in the Toledo Museum of Art.
The shape of the arched top of the Museum's portrait is not entirely original. The curves are cut into later additions that were set in place after the top of the primary support had been trimmed down. The additions are clearly visible on the x-radiograph (see Additional Images, fig. 1), which also reveals a large loss at the top that probably occurred when the panel was thinned in preparation for being glued to a secondary support. The ogee-arch design with the addition of peaks in the lateral slopes approximates a panel shape occasionally used by Barthel the Elder. The flat apex given to the Slosgin portrait is unusual. While the present shape possibly reconstructs one lost when the support was cut down, the original form was more likely a simple ogee with a rounded apex, as is very commonly found in other works by the elder and the younger Bruyn.
The 1557 date of the MMA portrait makes it one of the earliest known works done by Barthel the Younger after his father's death. It is a clear example of the son's continuation of his father's successful business of portrait painting for Cologne's elite.
[2013; adapted from Waterman 2013]
The wood support is a single piece of oak with the grain oriented vertically that originated in the Netherlands or western Germany. Dendrochronological analysis indicated an earliest possible fabrication date of 1541. The panel has undergone structural alterations. At some point the upper part was cut to form a truncated gable. It was subsequently thinned to .1 centimeter and laminated to a secondary support panel, which extended beyond the gable edges; pieces of oak .1 centimeter thick were then added on to this to raise it up to the original surface level. The perimeter was finally trimmed to form a shaped top. Wood strips .64 centimeters wide were attached to the sides, and the panel was cradled. X-radiography revealed that the original panel was damaged at the top when it was thinned; the large horizontal loss extends into the top of the bonnet. There are two vertical splits in the primary support associated with the joins in the secondary support. The verso of the panel and the cradle are thickly coated with wax. The panel was prepared with a ground that contains calcium carbonate and with a pale pink priming. X-radiography (see Additional Images, fig. 1) and examination of paint samples taken from the green background and mounted in cross section revealed a locally applied pale gray layer on top of the pink priming. Because of the darkening and increased transparency of the paint as it aged, the details and distinction between the brocaded bodice and the high-collared yoke with its decorative band surrounding the armhole and chest are only apparent when the painting is viewed in a strong light. The mottled brownish green background color may have diminished from a brighter green, a change commonly observed in paint containing copper-green pigments. A few traces of underdrawing are visible when the surface is examined with a stereomicroscope. They include the contours of the base of the nose, the chin, and the edge of the cuff on the sitter’s right hand. The underdrawing could not be imaged using infrared reflectography. [2013; adapted from German Paintings catalogue]
Inscription: Dated and inscribed (upper left): ANNO.1557.ÆTATIS.SVÆ 34
Count Charles Robert de Nesselrode, Moscow; comte André de Ganay, Paris; Benjamin Altman, New York; [Kleinberger, New York]; Michael Friedsam, New York (by 1928–d. 1931)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Michael Friedsam Collection," November 15, 1932–April 9, 1933, no catalogue.
New York. The Cloisters Museum & Gardens, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Treasures and Talismans: Rings from the Griffin Collection," May 1–October 18, 2015, no catalogue.
Max J. Friedländer in The Michael Friedsam Collection. [completed 1928], p. 147, as "Portrait of a Noble Lady. Half Figure," formerly in the Munich and Paris art trade; calls it "one of the earliest and best works" of Bruyn the Younger.
Dr. Baumeister. Letter to Margaretta Salinger. January 7, 1933, identifies the coat of arms in this portrait as that of the Slosgin (Schlössgen) family, Cologne merchants whose ancestor, Johann, came from Nymegen, Holland, in 1415; believes the sitter must be from the fifth generation of the family, and is possibly Katharina Slosgin, daughter of Peter Slosgin and Margaretha van Bergen, and wife of Heinrich Kannegiesser, who became mayor of Cologne.
Margaretta M. Salinger. Letter to Edward S. King. January 4, 1943, reports Baumeister's [Ref. 1933] association of the coat of arms with the Slosgin family, but notes that the three brushes on the shield have been difficult to identify and have been called "Feuerwedels" by one author; reports that a memo handwritten by [Harry B.] Wehle identifies the brushes as "three harrows of gold, and as belonging to the Bazeilles family of Luxembourg".
Harry B. Wehle and Margaretta Salinger. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Early Flemish, Dutch and German Paintings. New York, 1947, pp. 231–32, ill., call it "Portrait of a Lady"; incorrectly state that this portrait was painted the year that Bruyn the Elder died , after which Bruyn the Younger began to paint independently, "which probably accounts for the stiffness in posture and design and the formality of dress and décor that contrast so sharply with the freer, more Italianate portraits he painted later in his career"; state that the coat of arms is not yet identified [see Ref. Baumeister 1933].
Millia Davenport. The Book of Costume. New York, 1948, vol. 1, pp. 408–9, no. 1088, ill., calls this painting "Lady of the Schlossgen Family of Cologne"; notes that the bell shape of the sitter's ermine sleeves was "persistent in Cologne" although out of fashion elsewhere; observes that she holds a "pear-shaped pomander".
Julius S. Held. "Book Reviews: Harry B. Wehle and Margaretta M. Salinger . . ., 1947." Art Bulletin 31 (June 1949), p. 140, remarks that if the coat of arms in this portrait were described, it could aid in identifying the sitter.
Horst-Johannes Tümmers. "Bartholomäus Bruyn der Jüngere." Wallraf-Richartz-Jahrbuch 32 (1970), pp. 116, 120, no. 2, pl. 83, calls it "Portrait of a Woman" and comments on the influence of Bruyn the Elder based on comparison with the latter's only signed and dated portrait, of Petrus Ulner (1560; Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn); finds the attribution to Bruyn the Younger plausible.
J. G. Links. Letter to Katharine Baetjer. September 13, 1993, finds the fur depicted in this portrait "of great interest because the tails are raised from their background. I know of no other artist who painted ermine tails in this way except Cigoli and his are much larger and different. This point might be useful in attributing (or de-attributing) other works to Bruyn".
Annekatrein Löw. Bartholomäus Bruyn: Die Sammlung im Städtischen Museum Wesel. Wesel, 2002, p. 119.
Burton L. Dunbar. The Collections of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art: German and Netherlandish Paintings, 1450–1600. Kansas City, Mo., 2005, pp. 103–4, fig. 6–7f, notes that based on stylistic comparison with the Ulner diptych in Bonn [see Ref. Tümmer 1970], Bruyn the Younger's only documented work, it is possible to safely assign only three other portraits, including the present one, to the artist.
Karen E. Thomas inGerman Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1350–1600. New Haven, 2013, p. 10.
Joshua Waterman inGerman Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1350–1600. New Haven, 2013, pp. 40–43, 283–84, no. 7, ill. (color) and fig. 36 (x-radiograph).