Portrait of a Man, Said to Be Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859)
German Painter (ca. 1815)
Oval, 2 1/2 x 2 in. (64 x 52 mm)
Bequest of Mary Anna Palmer Draper, 1914
Not on view
A naturalist, traveler, and statesman, Humboldt was the most eminent German savant of his day. His later years were spent in Berlin at the court of the kings of Prussia. The culmination of his career was Kosmos (1845–62), a serial publication in five volumes which conveyed to the public at large the state of scientific knowledge at the time. The inscription (see Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings) had been thought reliable, but the resemblance to the many portraits published by Halina Nelken (Alexander von Humboldt: His Portraits and Their Artists, Berlin, 1980) is not compelling.
[2016; adapted from Reynolds and Baetjer 1996]
Inscription: Inscribed (reverse of the backing card, in black ink, in an early hand): Alexander. v. Humboldt.
Mary Anna Palmer Draper (until d. 1914)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "European Miniatures in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," November 5, 1996–January 5, 1997, no. 288.
Graham Reynolds with the assistance of Katharine Baetjer. European Miniatures in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1996, pp. 14, 199–200, no. 288, ill., call it German and date it about 1815.