This picture of Christ as Salvator Mundi, Savior of the World, who raises his right hand in blessing and in his left holds a globe representing the earth, can be appreciated both as a painting and as a drawing. Albrecht Dürer, the premier artist of the German Renaissance, probably began this work shortly before he departed for Italy in 1505, but completed only the drapery. His unusually extensive and meticulous preparatory drawing on the panel is visible in the unfinished portions of Christ's face and hands.
Along with the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne (MMA 14.40.633), the Salvator Mundi (Savior of the World) is one of two exceptional paintings by Albrecht Dürer in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum. Placed before a brilliant green background, Christ raises his right hand in blessing while holding a crystal orb in his left. A significant feature of this painting is its unfinished state, recorded as early as the 1573 inventory of the Willibald Imhoff collection, which lists “der Salvator, so Albrecht Durer nit gar ausgemacht hat” (“the Salvator, not quite finished by Albrecht Dürer”). In 1861 Alois Hauser, a restorer in Bamberg, cleaned the painting and described its condition at the time: the draperies, hair, and background were completed; the face and hands had been sketched in; and highlights had been applied to the forehead and nose. To Hauser’s statement, we should add that the globe was abandoned at a midstage of painting. Also notable are a whitish wash over portions of the underdrawing in the neck area, employed to tone down the prominent dark black strokes, as well as applications of the orangey pink underpainting of the flesh at the base of the neck near the collar of the robe. Before 1895 a subsequent owner had the painting “finished” by a restorer in Augsburg named Anton Deschler. Finally, cleanings before 1906 and in 1939–40 removed most of the overpainting, thus exposing additional unfinished portions.
Despite the somewhat checkered history and compromised state of this work, its authorship has rarely been questioned. Its autograph quality is especially evident in the sensitive rendering of Christ’s head and hands and in the sophisticated realization of texture and sculptural form in the richly colored draperies. Dürer lavished extraordinary attention on the fully worked-up underdrawing, portions of which can be seen with the naked eye, especially on the head, neck, and hands; infrared reflectography has revealed similar underdrawing in the draperies (see Additional Images, fig. 1). It is also noteworthy that, in this preliminary design stage, Dürer not only carefully modeled the orb with light and shade but also indicated a reflection of a window on its left and right side. He was also careful to offset the contours of the robe and indicate the refraction of the light through the crystal. This extensive and complex underdrawing is not the norm for Dürer and is equaled only in a limited number of examples, including his self-portrait of 1500, now in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich.
Such finished underdrawing has a direct parallel in Dürer’s drawings on paper of the same period, in which he adopted the exacting technique he had developed for engraving. The extremely dense passages of parallel hatching and cross-hatching in pen in the shadowed areas of Christ’s head are even further reworked with another layer of curved strokes in brush to indicate the cavity of the neck. The structure of these strokes resembles that in Dürer’s drawings Head of a Young Man of 1503 (Clark Art Institute, Williamstown) and Head of a Curly-Haired Boy of 1508 (G. M. Gathorne-Hardy collection, Donnington Priory, Newbury, England). The exceptional level of finish elsewhere in the underdrawing is paralleled in some of Dürer’s preparatory studies for his first major commissions in Venice in 1506, The feast of the Rose Garlands (Národní Galerie, Prague) and Christ among the Doctors (Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid). Among these, the drawings for hands in the Albertina, Vienna, and the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg, are strikingly similar to the underdrawing of Christ’s right hand: all exhibit obliquely angled cross-hatching for the deepest shadows, short, commalike strokes indicating the edges of forms, and bold, even, parallel strokes across the fingers. In the preparatory drawings for the draperies in these two paintings, Dürer employed penwork in darker and lighter inks and white heightening on blue paper that is comparable to the structure of the penstrokes used to create the volumes of forms in Christ’s draperies in the MMA panel. Both in underdrawing and in drawing on paper, Dürer achieved a remarkable variety in surface textures modeled by light and shade through the particular arrangement of strokes of the pen and brush.
The Salvator Mundi derives from late medieval prints such as an engraving by Master E.E. (later reworked about 1466–67 by Israhel van Meckenem), which provided Dürer with a model for Christ’s pose, somewhat furrowed brow, tightly curled beard, and ringlets of hair falling onto the shoulders. Yet the work is also imbued with a Renaissance spirit that owes its inspiration to Jacopo de’ Barbari, whom Dürer perhaps met on his first trip to Italy in 1494–95 and certainly encountered sometime between 1500 and 1503, when the Italian was working for emperor Maximilian I in Nuremberg. Two paintings of Christ by de’ Barbari, in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden, and Schlossmuseum in Stadtschloss, Weimar, dating from about 1503, show the same pose and treatment of the hair and beard. The rich, saturated colors in Christ’s robe and cloak, particularly in the Weimar example, reflect an Italian palette that was readily assimilated by Dürer. But above all it is the poignant, human expression of Jacopo’s Christ that Dürer adopted.
Exactly why Dürer left this work unfinished will never be known. The most immediate reason may have been the sudden outbreak of the plague in Nuremberg, which caused him to escape to Venice in the late fall of 1505. Interestingly enough, though, this was not the only work that Dürer abandoned in midstage. Around 1503–5, perhaps considering illustrations for a book of prayers, he produced a number of woodcuts of hermit saints. Two unfinished panels of about the same date as the Salvator Mundi, now in the Kunsthalle Bremen, portray a fictional encounter in the wilderness between Saint John the Baptist and the fourth-century hermit saint Onuphrius. Like the MMA painting, these works reflect a new interest in Italian models. Saint John, in his forward-facing contrapposto, recalls poses that Dürer was studying in preparatory drawings for his famous 1504 engraving Adam and Eve, while Saint Onuphrius appears to be derived from a figure of Job at the lower left in Giovanni Bellini’s San Giobbe altarpiece (Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice), which Dürer must have seen on his first trip to Venice in 1494–95. In both these incomplete works, the underpainting of the figures, the initial description of their draperies, and the features of the landscape have been laid in, but the finishing glazes, which produce the final definition of form, have not yet been added.
Eduard Flechsig (1928) was the first to suggest that the two unfinished panels in Bremen were the wings of a triptych, with the Salvator Mundi as its centerpiece. His proposal immediately attracted scholarly attention and found many supporters, as well as a few notable detractors. Erwin Panofsky (1943) rejected it because of the incongruity of the three backgrounds, noting the lack of precedents for a central panel with an abstract background combined with wings having landscape backgrounds. Another objection might be the considerable difference in scale between the figures of the saints and Christ, although at least two other contemporaneous triptychs by Dürer show this type, namely Oswolt Krel and Two Wild Men with Shields of 1499 (Alte Pinakothek, Munich) and a drawing after a lost altarpiece representing the Vera Icon flanked by donor portraits of Jacob Heller and Katharina von Mühlheim (École des Beaux-Arts, Paris).
Are the features that the three panels share—period of creation, unfinished state, similar early provenances in important collections in Nuremberg, and compatible sizes—coincidental, or were the works actually designed as a triptych? It finally became possible to test Flechsig’s hypothesis in January 2005, when the Bremen panels were brought to the Museum for technical examination. The support of all three paintings is linden wood, and their preparation with a chalk ground indicated that they were painted in northern Europe, not in Italy as has sometimes been suggested. All show intact painted edges and a wood reserve that proved they were painted within frames. Given their dimensions, the three could have formed a triptych, although the framing elements for such an arrangement would have been extremely narrow (about 2 centimeters).
Yet, significant differences among the unfinished states of the three works immediately cast doubt upon their connection as a triptych. While the Bremen panels have been left uniformly at a midstage of painting, the Salvator Mundi has been brought up to a final form in most areas except for the head, hands, and orb. Infrared reflectography (see Additional Images, fig. 1) revealed a fully worked-up underdrawing for the Salvator Mundi in areas not visible to the naked eye, but the same equipment did not show similarly complete preparatory drawings in the panels of the saints. While the underdrawings of the Bremen panels are masterfully executed in Dürer’s typically sensitive, confident manner, they are less finished and applied in a more dilute manner—or perhaps in an underdrawing material, such as brown ink, that becomes transparent with conventional infrared reflectography. Although the two saints demonstrate Dürer’s highly proficient handling and execution, they do not show the same level of attention lavished on the Salvator Mundi. If the latter work was ever accompanied by wings, they would more likely represent the Virgin Mary and Saint John or Saints Paul and Peter, the founders of the Church. The tall, very thin panels of the saints alternatively may have been planned to flank a central sculpture to form a shrine of the type being made in Nuremberg at that time.
How then might the MMA work be understood as an independent painting, not as part of a triptych? Significantly, one of the few paintings by Dürer worked up in a similarly detailed, meticulous way is the Munich Self-Portrait of 1500. The full-face, frontal figure seen there was a form usually reserved in northern Europe at this time for icons of Christ. In addition, the sitter in this idealized formal portrait, with his hypnotic gaze, handsome face, and shoulder-length brown hair (Dürer was blond in other portraits), calls to mind the description of Christ in the famous Lentulus Letter, generally believed an accurate description and only later found to be a forgery. Dürer’s well-known intention to imitate or emulate Christ is also reflected in his drawing Self-Portrait as a Man of Sorrows of 1522 (formerly Kunsthalle Bremen) and in an engraving of 1513 in which his features are those of Christ imprinted on Veronica’s veil. The Christlike nature of the Munich self-portrait has been ascribed to Dürer’s dual desire to represent humanity as created in the image of God and the artist himself as a creator.
The Munich Self-Portrait was likely meant as a showpiece to demonstrate Dürer’s extraordinary abilities to his students and prospective clients alike. Most probably it was kept in the artist’s house during his lifetime, just as the Salvator Mundi was. Could the Salvator Mundi have served a similar purpose in Dürer’s workshop? the exceptional attention he lavished on every stage of workmanship, from the underdrawing to the final touches in the finished areas, does not speak logically for a commissioned work with a deadline. Rather, the painting was apparently kept close at hand by Dürer to work on as a further development of the concepts and aims of the self-portrait. Klaus Jürgens, who noted the extraordinary similarities between the two paintings (1983/84), even speculated that the Salvator was left unfinished precisely because the completed painting of Christ would have looked more and more like Dürer himself.
When Dürer’s workshop closed after his death, the two Bremen panels and the Salvator Mundi went their separate ways. An inventory of 1616 described the saints’ panels as being framed together. In the nineteenth century, when in the Felix collection, the Salvator Mundi had been separated from an old, still-existing frame that had a sliding lid bearing the date 1650 and the coat of arms of the Haller von Hallerstein family, an illustrious previous owner. The Salvator Mundi and the Saint Onuphrius and Saint John the Baptist seem never to have formed a triptych. Rather, what they have in common are revelations concerning Dürer’s workshop practice, style, and technique in the early years of the sixteenth century.
[2015; adapted from Ainsworth 2013]
The panel support is composed of three boards of linden, with the grain oriented vertically; two of the boards originate from the same tree. The panel has been thinned and cradled, and the verso was coated with wax in 1935. There are two short splits in the panel: in the background to the right of Christ’s head, extending down from the top edge, and at the left extending from the lower edge. Additionally, hairline cracks and small losses are found along the panel joins. The presence of unpainted wood and a barbe around the perimeter indicates that the white ground preparation, containing calcium carbonate, was applied when an engaged frame was in place. The panel was not painted to completion. Examination of the unfinished portions of the composition with the stereomicroscope showed a thin, translucent lead-white priming over the underdrawing. In addition to the underdrawing visible in the unpainted portions, infrared reflectography revealed in the completed areas a carbon-containing underdrawing, executed with both brush and pen, that was fully worked up before the painting began. The painted composition follows the underdrawing precisely. The blue robe, red cloak, and green background are well preserved. The hair along the top of Christ’s head is severely abraded, but the long locks falling onto his right shoulder are well preserved and their finely applied highlights are intact. The hair falling onto his left shoulder is damaged and partially covered with very old repainting. Examination with the stereomicroscope confirmed that the thinly applied passages of paint on the flesh, beard, and orb are original, as are the more densely applied flesh paint along the collar and the red tincture in the lips and nostrils. All these delicate first stages in the painting process are abraded, which is understandable given the complex restoration history of the painting. The forehead and right cheek are peppered with small indentations that seem to be due to the collapse of the panel support, possibly from insect damage. There are losses on the bridge of the nose.
See Additional Images (figs. 1, 2) for infrared reflectogram and x-radiograph.
[2013; adapted from German Paintings catalogue]
?Estate of Albrecht Dürer, Nuremberg; sold by Ursula Dürer to Imhoff; Willibald Imhoff, Nuremberg (by 1573 [probably before 1564]–d. 1580; inv., 1573–74, no. 2; inv., 1580, no. 2); Imhoff family, Nuremberg (1580–1750; by descent through marriage to Haller); Christoph Joachim Freiherr Haller von Hallerstein, Nuremberg (1750–d. 1792); his son, Hans Christoph Joachim Freiherr Haller von Hallerstein, Nuremberg (1792–d. 1814); his brother, Johann Sigmund Christoph Joachim Freiherr Haller von Hallerstein, Nuremberg (1814–d. 1838; his estate, 1838–61; sold to Geuder); [Georg Friedrich Geuder, Nuremberg, 1861; sold for fl. 40 to Finke]; [Gustav Finke, Bamberg, 1861]; Franz R. Reichardt, Munich (1861–69); Alexander Posonyi, Vienna (1869–at least 1873); Eugen Ferdinand Felix, Leipzig (by 1880–d. 1888); his son, Hans E. C. Felix, Leipzig (1888–about 1904); Charles Fairfax Murray, London (by 1906–14; on loan to Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, 1911–14; his sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, June 15, 1914, no. 8, for Fr 2,000 to Kleinberger); [Kleinberger, Paris and New York, 1914–21; sold to Friedsam]; Michael Friedsam, New York (1921–d. 1931)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Left Unfinished by Albrecht Dürer," January 11–March 27, 2005, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Dürer and Beyond: Central European Drawings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1400–1700," April 3–September 3, 2012, no. 8.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art [The Met Breuer]. "Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible," March 18–September 4, 2016, unnumbered cat. (colorpl. 3).
Willibald Imhoffs Kunstinventar. 1573–74, fol. 27 recto, no. 2 [Stadtbibliothek, Nuremberg; published in Horst Pohl, "Willibald Imhoff, Enkel und Erbe Willibald Pirckheimers," in Quellen zur Geschichte und Kultur der Stadt Nürnberg 24 (1992), p. 80], as "der Salvator, so Albrecht Durer nit gar ausgemacht hat, kost mich selbst fl 30".
Nachlaßinventar Willibald Imhoff. 1580, no. 2 [Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg, Historisches Archiv; published in Horst Pohl, "Willibald Imhoff, Enkel und Erbe Willibald Pirckheimers," in Quellen zur Geschichte und Kultur der Stadt Nürnberg 24 (1992), p. 298].
Testament of Willibald Imhoff. January 26, 1580 [Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg, Sammlung Merkel; published in Ref. Budde 1996], states that "ain Salvator von Albrecht Dürrers hand . . . soll forthin immerdar bey dem hauß unzertrent und unvertailt bleiben".
Anna Imhoff. Letter to Emperor Rudolf II. December 30, 1588, no. 2 [published in Ref. Heller 1827], as "Ein Salvator, ist das letzte Stück, so er gemacht hat".
Johann Hauer. List of paintings by Dürer. [before 1660], no. 19 [published in Ref. Will 1764 and Ref. Murr 1787], includes a "Salvator, noch nicht absolvirt" in the collection of Hans Imhoff the Elder in Nuremberg, probably this picture.
Georg Andreas Will. Der Nürnbergischen Münz-Belüstigungen. Vol. 1, Altdorf, 1764, p. ?, publishes Ref. Hauer n.d.
Christoph Gottlieb von Murr. Journal zur Kunstgeschichte und zur allgemeinen Litteratur 14 (1787), p. 101, publishes Ref. Hauer n.d., this time describing the picture as "Salvator, welcher noch nicht fertig" [see Ref. Will 1764 for the first publication of Hauer's list].
Joseph Heller. Das Leben une die Werke Albrecht Dürer's. Vol. 2, part 1, Bamberg, 1827, pp. 79, 229, publishes the list of works by Dürer that Anna, widow of Willibald Imhoff, offered to Emperor Rudolf II in 1588 [based on Johann Karl Sigmund Kiefhaber, "Nachrichten zur ältern und neuern Geschichte der freyen Reichsstadt Nürnberg," Nuremberg, vol. 1, 1803, pp. 1–18, 75–77], mentioning an unfinished "Salvator," probably this work; notes that the picture was in the possession of Hans Imhoff in 1650 [sic; see Ref. Budde 1996, p. 338].
A[ugust]. v[on]. Eye. Leben und Wirken Albrecht Dürer's. Nördlingen, Germany, 1860, p. 455 and Appendix, publishes the Imhoff inventories, referring to an unfinished "Salvator"; is unaware that the painting is still extant.
J. Sighart. Geschichte der bildenden Künste im Königreich Bayern. Munich, 1862, pp. 626–27, ill. (woodcut), identifies this painting with the one listed in the Imhoff inventories; calls it Dürer's last, unfinished painting; states that the present owner is the painter Reichardt in Munich, and cites an earlier Haller and Imhoff provenance.
"Kunst-Chronik: München." Die Dioskuren: deutsche Kunstzeitung Hauptorgan der deutschen Kunstvereine 7 (January 19, 1862), p. 19, reports that it was found in June 1861 in the attic of the Haller house in Nuremberg, whereafter it was sold unrecognized to a "Raritätenhandler" for a very low price; states that it was then bought by "der bekannte Kunsthändler Finke" and sold by him to the Bildrestaurator Reichardt in Munich; mentions an inscription in ink on the back; identifies it as the picture mentioned in the Imhoff inventory of 1573–74 and in the Imhoff letter to Rudolf II of 1588.
A[ugust]. v[on]. Eye. "Eine Kirchenfahne von A. Dürer." Anzeiger für Kunde der deutschen Vorzeit, n.s., 9 (February 1862), col. 47, notes that the painting has entered the Reichardt collection in Munich.
"Zwei Albrecht Dürer-Funde." Recensionen und Mittheilingen über bildende Kunst 1 (1862), p. 15.
Wilhelm Schmidt. "Die Ausstellung älterer Gemälde im Kunstausstellungsgebäude zu München." Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst 4 (1869), pp. 357–58, notes that it had two owners after leaving the Haller von Hallerstein estate and before entering the Reichardt collection in Munich.
Austellung von Gemälden älterer Meister. Exh. cat., Königliches Kunstausstellungsgebäude. Munich, 1869, p. 22, no. 60, calls it Dürer's last work, citing the Imhoff inventories; gives Pirckheimer as a former owner, quoting the inscription on its reverse as "diess Bild von Alb. Dürer hat Imhof vom Birckheimer und ich vom Imhof, Haller von Hallerstein"; states that it appears in a seventeenth-century inventory of the Haller von Hallerstein collection.
A[ugust]. v[on]. Eye. Leben und Wirken Albrecht Dürer's. 2nd ed. [1st ed., 1860]. Nördlingen, Germany, 1869, pp. 455, 532, and Appendix, states that in 1861 it passed from the Haller family collection through several hands into that of F. R. Reichardt.
Katalog der Gemälde alter Meister aus dem Wiener Privatbesitze. Exh. cat., K. K. Österreichisches Museum. Vienna, 1873, p. 50, no. 190, as lent by Alex. Posonyi.
O[skar]. Eisenmann. "Die Ausstellung von Gemälden alter Meister aus dem Wiener Privatbesitz." Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst 9 (1874), pp. 155–56, agrees with Cavalcaselle that the picture is not Dürer's last work, but rather dates from his second Venetian trip [Cavalcaselle reference not located].
Moriz Thausing. Dürer: Geschichte seines Lebens und seiner Kunst. Leipzig, 1876, p. 225, like Eisenmann [see Ref. 1874], dismisses the notion that this is Dürer's last painting, stating that it was produced when Dürer was most under the influence of Jacopo de' Barbari; notes that the wings in Bremen, depicting Saint Onuphrius and Saint John the Baptist, are also unfinished and of about the same time, but does not conclude that they may have belonged with our picture.
A[ugust]. von Eye and P. E. Börner. Die Kunstsammlung von Eugen Felix in Leipzig. Leipzig, 1880, p. 140, Eye records that the old frame bore the Haller coat of arms and the date 1650; gives provenance information; erroneously states both that it was sold at [the Haller] auction, and that the Munich exhibition date was 1868.
Charles Ephrussi. Albert Dürer et ses dessins. Paris, 1882, p. 360, no. 2, reprints the 1588 list of works offered to Rudolf II by the Imhoffs.
Robert Vischer. Studien zur Kunstgeschichte. Stuttgart, 1886, p. 221, judging only from the woodcut in Ref. Sighart 1862, suspects it is by Kulmbach; questions whether the "Salvator" mentioned in the Imhoff inventories refers to a picture other than ours which might have formed the center panel of a triptych with the two paintings of the four Evangelists (Alte Pinakothek, Munich).
Karl Koelitz. Hans Suess v. Kulmbach und seine Werke. Leipzig, 1891, p. 71, rejects Vischer's attribution [see Ref. 1886] to Kulmbach.
Kunsthistorische Gesellschaft für photographische Publikationen 1 (1895), unpaginated, no. 2, ill. [see Ref. Flechsig 1928, p. 401], erroneously claims that it came on the Nuremberg art market in 1863; quotes the restorer [Alois] Hauser, who claims it was later repainted by the restorer Deschler in Augsburg.
Ausstellung von Werken alten Kunstgewerbes aus Sächsisch-Thüringischem Privatbesitz. Exh. cat., Kunstgewerbe-Museum. Leipzig, 1897, p. 116, no. 1113, reports that it has recently been attributed to Jacobo [sic] de' Barbari, without any indication as to who made this attribution.
[Max J.] Friedländer. "Die Ausstellung von Werken alten Kunstgewerbes aus sächsisch-thüringischem Privatbesitz im Grassi-Museum zu Leipzig, Juni bis October 1897." Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft 20 (1897), pp. 413–14, rejects the attribution to Jacopo de' Barbari, maintaining that the technique is typical of Dürer in the first years of the sixteenth century.
Ludwig Justi. "Jacopo de' Barbari und Albrecht Dürer." Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft 21 (1898), pp. 354, 452 n. 22, de-emphasizes Jacopo de' Barbari's influence [see Ref. Thausing 1876].
M. Zucker. Albrecht Dürer. Halle, 1900, pp. 114, 167 n. 1 to p. 60.
Valentin Scherer. Dürer. Stuttgart, 1904, ill. p. 17, as formerly in the Felix collection; dates it about 1503.
[Max J.] Friedländer. "Die Ausstellung altdeutscher Kunst im Burlington Fine Arts Club zu London—Sommer 1906." Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft 29 (1906), p. 586, dates it about 1504; as left unfinished by Dürer.
Charles Ricketts. "German Art: Dürer & His Successors." Burlington Magazine 9 (July 1906), p. 267, describes it as an unfinished work, possibly painted in Venice, noting the influence of Antonello and Cima as well as that of Jacopo de' Barbari; mentions the removal of old restorations in the face.
Early German Art. Exh. cat., Burlington Fine Arts Club. London, 1906, p. 94, no. 38, pl. XXIII, dates it 1506 or 1507; states that Deschler's repaints have been removed.
Max J. Friedländer inAllgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Ulrich Thieme. Vol. 10, Leipzig, 1914, p. 69, dates it "about 1504?".
E[mil]. Waldmann. Albrecht Dürer. Leipzig, 1916, p. 87, pl. 32, dates it about 1503.
Max J. Friedländer. Albrecht Dürer. Leipzig, 1921, p. 98, recognizes the influence of Jacopo de' Barbari and dates it about 1503.
"Masterpieces from Germany Sold Here." American Art News 20 (November 26, 1921), p. 1.
"Mr. Friedsam Buyer of Famous Dürer." American Art News 20 (December 3, 1921), p. 1, ill. p. 6.
Pierre du Colombier. Albert Dürer. Paris, 1927, pp. 66–67, 173, consideres it deplorably mannered.
Max J. Friedländer in The Michael Friedsam Collection. [completed 1928], p. 131, dates it about 1500, noting the influence of Jacopo de' Barbari.
Eduard Flechsig. Albrecht Dürer, sein Leben und seine künstlerische Entwickelung. Vol. 1, Berlin, 1928, pp. 400–403, suggests that the panels in Bremen formed the wings of a small triptych with ours as the center panel; dates all three in the summer of 1505, before Dürer departed for Venice.
A[ndré]. de Hevesy. "Albrecht Dürer und Jacopo de Barbari." Albrecht Dürer, Festschrift der internationalen Dürer-Forschung. Leipzig, 1928, p. 35, ill., dates it during the time when Jacopo de' Barbari was in Germany (1500–1503), noting the interchange of influence between him and Dürer.
Friedrich Winkler. Dürer, des Meisters Gemälde Kupferstiche und Holzschnitte. Stuttgart, , p. 411, ill. p. 30, without having seen the picture, reports critics to have stated that the face is three-quarters new.
Hans Tietze and E. Tietze-Conrat. Kritisches Verzeichnis der Werke Albrecht Dürers. Vol. 1, Basel, 1928, pp. 72, no. 244, ill. p. 202, date it about 1503, noting the influence of Jacopo de' Barbari; agree with Flechsig [see Ref. 1928] in connecting it with the Bremen panels; observe dependence of its composition on the engraving of the Salvator Mundi by the Master E.S.
Michel Benisovitch. "The Dürer Exhibition in Nuremberg." Burlington Magazine 53 (December 1928), p. 330.
Bryson Burroughs and Harry B. Wehle. "The Michael Friedsam Collection: Paintings." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 27, section 2 (November 1932), pp. 29–30, no. 44, date it about 1505, accepting Flechsig's reconstruction [see Ref. 1928] with the Bremen panels.
Hans Tietze. "Dürer in Amerika." Anzeiger des germanischen Nationalmuseums (1932–33), p. 92 [reprinted in English in Art Bulletin 15 (September 1933), p. 263, fig. 20], dates it about 1503.
Wilhelm Waetzoldt. Dürer und seine Zeit. Vienna, 1935, p. 295, calls it unbearably sweet.
Charles L. Kuhn. A Catalogue of German Paintings of the Middle Ages and Renaissance in American Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1936, p. 54, no. 200, pl. XXXVII, dates it about 1503, accepting the reconstruction with the Bremen panels.
Harry B. Wehle. "Preparatory Drawing on a Panel by Dürer." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 1 (December 1942), pp. 156–64, ill. (overall and details), dates it about 1505, accepting its connection with the Bremen panels, noting, however, stylistic and technical differences between it and the wings; suggests that the Salvator was left unfinished before Dürer's departure for Venice in 1505, and that the Bremen wings were worked on in Venice about a year later and left unfinished; perceives in the figural type of the Saint Onuphrius the influence of Giovanni Bellini's San Giobbe altarpiece in the Accademia in Venice.
Erwin Panofsky. Albrecht Dürer. Princeton, 1943, vol. 1, p. 94; vol. 2, pp. 9, 12, no. 18, dates it 1503–4, noting influence of Jacopo de' Barbari and possibly also of Leonardo da Vinci; rejects the triptych reconstruction because of the incongruity of the backgrounds.
Harry B. Wehle and Margaretta Salinger. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Early Flemish, Dutch and German Paintings. New York, 1947, pp. 180–82, ill.
Erwin Panofsky. "Dürer's Last Picture?" Burlington Magazine 89 (March 1947), p. 63 n. 13, notes that its history of ownership is still in need of clarification, particularly concerning its absence in a 1628 [sic for 1630] list of paintings by Dürer in the Imhoff collection and the circumstances of its reappearance in or about 1860 and its vicissitudes between then and 1862.
Holbein and His Contemporaries. Exh. cat., John Herron Art Museum. Indianapolis, 1950, unpaginated, no. 21, ill.
H[einrich]. Th[eodor]. Musper. Albrecht Dürer: Der gegenwärtige Stand der Forschung. Stuttgart, 1953, p. 174, accepts the reconstruction with the Bremen panels and regards as reliable the date 1504 on the Saint Onuphrius.
Friedrich Winkler. Albrecht Dürer: Leben und Werk. Berlin, 1957, p. 138, notes the difference between the drawing in this work and in the Bremen panels.
A. Hyatt Mayor. "The Gifts that Made the Museum." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 16 (November 1957), p. 106.
H[einrich]. T[heodor]. Musper. Albrecht Dürer. New York, , pp. 24, 88, ill. p. 89 (color), dates it before the autumn of 1505.
Angela Ottino della Chiesa. The Complete Paintings of Dürer. New York, 1968, p. 100, no. 100, ill., dates it 1503–4.
Fedja Anzelewsky. Albrecht Dürer: Das Malerische Werk. Berlin, 1971, pp. 39, 70, 89, 185–86, no. 83, pls. 91(triptych reconstruction), 93, accepts the reconstruction with the Bremen panels, dating all three shortly before Dürer's departure for Venice in the autumn of 1505; proposes an integrated iconographic program for the triptych in which Christ is flanked on the left by his precursor, the Baptist, and on the right by the follower and imitator Onuphrius who, like the Baptist, retreated to the wilderness.
Albrecht Dürer, 1471–1971. Exh. cat., Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg. Munich, 1971, pp. 110, 112, no. 192, dates it 1503–4.
Matthias Mende. "Albrecht Dürer 1471–1971: A Great Exhibition in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nürnberg, May 21 to August 1." Connoisseur 176 (March 1971), p. 165, ill. p. 171 (color), endorses the triptych reconstruction.
Peter Strieder. Dürer. Milan, 1976, p. 183, no. 25, ill. [English ed., "The Hidden Dürer," Chicago, 1978].
Ugo Ruggeri. Dürer. Woodbury, N.Y., 1979, pp. 32, 34, unpaginated catalogue section, colorpl. 11, believes the work "derives its theoretical disposition from a Venetian prototype such as Carpaccio or Alvise Barbarini"; calls Christ's smile Leonardesque.
Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 260, 263, fig. 472 (color).
Fedja Anzelewsky. Dürer: Werk und Wirkung. Stuttgart, 1980, p. 123.
Peter Strieder. Dürer. Königstein, 1981, p. 297, ill. p. 299 (color), dates it about 1503; doubts the triptych reconstruction and thinks the Bremen panels date to about 1497–98.
Klaus H. Jürgens. "Neue Forschungen zu dem Münchener Selbstbildnis des Jahres 1500 von Albrecht Dürer (I)." Kunsthistorisches Jahrbuch Graz 19/20 (1983/84), pp. 181–82, 189 nn. 68, 71–72, notes similarities, especially in proportion, between it and the "Self-portrait" of 1500 (Alte Pinakothek, Munich).
Hilton Brown. "Looking at Paintings." American Artist 48 (April 1984), pp. 62, 94–96, ill. pp. 62, 63 (overall and color detail), speculates that Dürer may have used a mix of oil and tempera.
Klaus H. Jürgens. "Neue Forschungen zu dem Münchener Selbstbildnis des Jahres 1500 von Albrecht Dürer (II, III)." Kunsthistorisches Jahrbuch Graz 21 (1985), pp. 158–59.
Kurt Löcher inGothic and Renaissance Art in Nuremberg, 1300–1550. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1986, p. 290, no. 118, fig. 129 (reconstruction of altarpiece), ill. p. 291 (color) [German ed., "Nürnberg 1300–1550: Kunst der Gotik und Renaissance," Nuremberg, 1986, pp. 290, 293, no. 118, fig. 129 (reconstruction of altarpiece) and ill. p. 291 (color)], dates it about 1503–4; notes Dürer's indebtedness to the Master E.S. and to Italian sources; raises doubts about the triptych reconstruction, suggesting that the Bremen panels date from before 1500.
Corinna Höper. Die Gemälde des 14. bis 18. Jahrhunderts in der Kunsthalle Bremen. Bremen, 1990, p. 124, accepts the triptych reconstruction.
Fedja Anzelewsky. Albrecht Dürer: Das Malerische Werk. rev. ed. [first ed., 1971]. Berlin, 1991, text vol., pp. 37, 70, 90, 189–90, no. 83; plate vol., colorpl. 88, pl. 89 (reconstruction of altarpiece).
Alexander Löhr. Studien zu Hans von Kulmbach als Maler. Würzburg, 1995, p. 83.
Doris Kutschbach. Albrecht Dürer: die Altäre. Stuttgart, 1995, p. 99, supports the triptych reconstruction, referring to the MMA and Bremen panels as constituting a small, unfinished "Andachtsbild".
Hendrik Budde. Die Kunstsammlung des Nürnberger Patriziers Willibald Imhoff unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Werke Albrecht Dürers. Münster, 1996, pp. 118, 136, 142–44, 338, no. G/3, states that it probably belonged to Dürer's estate and may have been among the paintings sold by Dürer's sister-in-law Ursula to Willibald Imhoff in 1557; gives other provenance information.
Ernst Rebel. Albrecht Dürer: Maler und Humanist. Munich, 1996, pp. 164–65, fig. 47.
Andreas Burmester and Christoph Krekel. "The Relationship Between Albrecht Dürer's Palette and Fifteenth/Sixteenth-Century Price Lists: The Use of Azurite and Ultramarine." Painting Techniques, History, Materials and Studio Practice: Contributions to the Dublin Congress, 7–11 September 1998. Ed. Ashok Roy and Perry Smith. London, 1998, pp. 101, 103.
Jill Dunkerton. "North and South: Painting Techniques in Renaissance Venice." Renaissance Venice and the North: Crosscurrents in the Time of Bellini, Dürer and Titian. Ed. Bernard Aikema and Beverly Louise Brown. Exh. cat., Palazzo Grassi, Venice. Milan, 1999, p. 101, claims the support is poplar, and that the robe consists largely of ultramarine; proposes that it was painted in Venice.
Andrea Kirsh and Rustin S. Levenson. Seeing Through Paintings: Physical Examination in Art Historical Studies. New Haven, 2000, p. 265.
M[atthias]. Mende inAllgemeines Künstlerlexikon: die bildenden Künstler aller Zeiten und Völker. Vol. 30, Munich, 2001, p. 301.
Claus Grimm. Meister oder Schüler?: Berühmte Werke auf dem Prüfstand. Stuttgart, 2002, p. 51, figs. 78–79 (color, overall and detail), states that the anatomical clarity and graphic sureness in the underdrawing rule out any workshop assistance.
David Bomford, ed. Underdrawings in Renaissance Paintings. Exh. cat., National Gallery. London, 2002, pp. 11–12, fig. 5, as more likely started in Italy and left incomplete when Dürer returned to Nuremberg.
Heinz Widauer inAlbrecht Dürer. Exh. cat., Albertina, Vienna. Ostfildern-Ruit, Germany, 2003, p. 478, under no. 167, erroneously states that it was offered for sale to Elector Maximilian I of Bavaria along with the "Virgin and Child with Saint Anne" (MMA 14.40.633).
Maryan W. Ainsworth inAlbrecht Dürer. Exh. cat., Graphische Sammlung Albertina. Ostfildern-Ruit, Germany, 2003, pp. 298–302, 542–43, no. 84, ill. (color; overall, detail, and infrared reflectogram detail), dates it about 1504–5; calling for detailed examination of the MMA panels along with the Bremen panels, leaves open the question of the triptych reconstruction.
Katherine Crawford Luber inAlbrecht Dürer. Exh. cat., Albertina, Vienna. Ostfildern-Ruit, Germany, 2003, pp. 81, 84–85, ill. p. 80 (color detail), mentions it as an example of Dürer's early style of underdrawing, marked by dense parallel- and crosshatching and distinct from his later, looser style.
Bertold Freiherr von Haller. E-mail to Marie Luise Sternath. June 1, 2003, believes it to have been with the Imhoff family until about 1750.
Konstantin Akinsha. "Estonia Returns Missing Dürer." Art News 103 (February 2004), p. 52, ill. (color), as part of a triptych with the Bremen panels.
Anne Röver-Kann. Albrecht Dürer: Der heilige Johannes—aus Tallinn zurück! Der heilige Onuphrius und andere Eremiten. Exh. cat., Kunsthalle Bremen. Bremen, 2004, pp. 7, 23, 25–26, 30 nn. 76, 89, p. 31 nn. 91–95; fig. 33, doubts the triptych reconstruction and calls for technical investigation of the three panels; suspects that it was not commissioned by a patron but painted as part of an entrepreneurial effort to meet the demand for small devotional images.
Katherine Crawford Luber. Albrecht Dürer and the Venetian Renaissance. Cambridge, 2005, pp. 8–9, 17–18, 36–37, 84, 130, 190 n. 25, 208 n. 26, figs. 1, 7–8 (overall, infrared detail, and IRR assembly).
Bertold Freiherr von Haller. E-mails to Joshua Waterman. January–February 2005, specifies that 1750 is the only date when the picture could have passed from the Imhoffs to the Hallers; suspects the inscription on the reverse mentioned in 1862 and 1869 was a forgery; believes the 1869 reference [see Ref. Munich 1869] to a seventeenth-century Haller inventory mentioning the painting was a mistake; doubts the authenticity of the frame dated 1650 with a Haller coat of arms.
Gunnar Heydenreich. Lucas Cranach the Elder: Painting Materials, Techniques and Workshop Practice. [Amsterdam], 2007, p. 211.
Gunnar Heydenreich inCranach der Ältere. Ed. Bodo Brinkmann. Exh. cat., Städel Museum. Frankfurt, 2007, pp. 44, 46, fig. 37 (color).
Antonio Mazzotta. Giovanni Bellini's Dudley Madonna. London, 2012, p. 50, fig. 28 (color), relates it to Bellini's Dudley Madonna (private collection).
Nico Van Hout. The Unfinished Painting. [Antwerp], 2012, pp. 4, 62–65, ill. (color, overall and detail).
Stijn Alsteens inDürer and Beyond: Central European Drawings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1400–1700. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2012, p. xii.
Maryan W. Ainsworth inDürer and Beyond: Central European Drawings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1400–1700. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2012, pp. 19–22, no. 8, ill. (color) and fig. 1 (infrared reflectogram detail).
Maryan W. Ainsworth inGerman Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1350–1600. New Haven, 2013, pp. 3, 5, 103–9, 295–96, no. 23, ill. (color), figs. 85 (nineteenth-century restoration), 86 (infrared reflectogram).
Andrea Bayer inUnfinished: Thoughts Left Visible. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art [The Met Breuer]. New York, 2016, pp. 20, 287, colorpl. 3.