Benedikt von Hertenstein (born about 1495, died 1522)
Hans Holbein the Younger (German, Augsburg 1497/98–1543 London)
Oil and gold on paper, laid down on wood
Overall 20 1/2 x 15 in. (52.4 x 38.1 cm); painted surface 20 3/8 x 14 5/8 in. (51.4 x 37.1 cm)
Rogers Fund, aided by subscribers, 1906
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 643
In 1517 Holbein decorated the house of the Lucerne magistrate Jacob von Hertenstein. Concurrently, he made this portrait of the magistrate's eldest son, Benedikt, who engages the viewer both with his direct glance and the inscription, which reads as if he is speaking: "When I looked like this I was twenty-two years old." Directly following these words is the declaration, that "H.H." painted the work. The artist’s use of paper mounted on wood is unusual but not unique. He initiated the portrait as a drawing on paper and then continued working up in oil colors to its completion.
Benedikt von Hertenstein was the eldest son of the mayor of Lucerne, Jakob von Hertenstein, and his second wife, Anna Mangold of Landegg. From 1511 he studied at the University of Basel. In 1517 Hertenstein became a member of the Great Council of Lucerne, an event that may have prompted the commission of this portrait. At an unknown date, he went off to serve with the Swiss mercenaries and died at the battle of Bicocca in Lombardy on April 27, 1522.
Paul Ganz first identified the sitter in 1906, in part because of the signet ring’s once-visible coat of arms, which Ganz described as an upright lion (the Hertenstein arms are a lion rampant surrounded by deer antlers). However, by 1909, when Ganz published his observations, the coat of arms was already less discernible; by 1913 it was nearly illegible. Today it is unclear whether the upright lion was indeed distinct in 1906 or whether Ganz was led to this identification by the inscription, which states "When I looked like this, I was twenty-two years old, [in] 1517 H H was painting [this]." Alternatively, both Holbein himself and his brother Ambrosius have been suggested as the sitter (Fry 1906), but this cannot be supported. The more compelling evidence supports Ganz’s initial identification.
Between 1517 and 1519, Hans Holbein the Elder and his son Hans worked together on an important commission to decorate the Hertenstein house in Lucerne. Scholars generally agree that the father painted the interior frescoes and that his son designed and executed the facade. The house was demolished in 1825 and is known today only by nineteenth-century descriptions, watercolor copies of the interior frescoes, and pen and watercolor drawings by Hans the Younger for various scenes on the building’s facade. Judging from these renderings, Ganz believed that Benedikt von Hertenstein, similarly dressed as in the Museum’s portrait, appeared in two of the exterior scenes—on horseback, accompanying his father on a duck hunt, and at the feet of Saint Benedict in a painting depicting family members kneeling beneath their patron saints. Ganz’s claim is more credible for the former than the latter example, although neither shows Hertenstein precisely as he is dressed in the portrait.
The facade of the Hertenstein house was decorated with various classical figures and themes, including on the upper portion of the second level nine scenes from the Triumphs of Caesar, based on Mantegna’s famous series. Holbein employed a variation of the Mantegnesque motifs for the frieze in the Museum’s painting—a procession of naked and clothed revelers advancing from right to left—which would have connected the portrait with the exterior decoration of the house. Stephanie Buck (1997) has noted the two trumpeters, situated precisely over the sitter’s head, who boldly announce his heroic status.
When this portrait was painted, Holbein was only about twenty years old and had not yet been admitted into the Painters’ Guild in Basel, which he paid to join in 1519. Perhaps in an effort to save time and eliminate some of the more laborious steps of traditional portraiture, Holbein worked up his oil painting directly over the preliminary charcoal or black chalk sketch on paper. In so doing, he modified his initial frank portrayal of the sitter, with its slightly open mouth and rather bulbous upturned nose, to a more refined, elegant one. Holbein was experimenting with various modes of presentation at this time, as shown by the imposing Double Portrait of Jakob Meyer zum Hasen and Dorothea Kannengiesser (Kunstmuseum Basel, Museum Faesch) of 1516 and the tightly cropped Adam and Eve of 1517 (Kunstmuseum Basel). Considered in this context, the MMA work is perhaps the most lifelike and dramatic of these portrayals.
Holbein employed several new strategies here that enhance the relationship between the sitter and the viewer. He placed Hertenstein in the corner of a room, strongly illuminating him from the left so that his form cast a dark shadow on the back wall. The side and back walls meet at an oblique angle, emphasized by the relief above and the diminishing size of the letters in the inscription. Holbein subtly adjusted various details of the sitter in the paint stage, increasing the width of the neck, the height of the shoulders, and the position of the right eye. Viewed straight on, Hertenstein appears broader than he perhaps should, with an oversized left arm and hand. But as the viewer passes from left to right before the painting, reaching an angle of forty-five degrees opposite his image, Hertenstein assumes more natural proportions and seems to project in a realistic manner out of his space.
Scholars have scrutinized the inscription for its use of German for the part "uttered" by the sitter and Latin for the portion relating to the artist’s role. Oskar Bätschmann and Pascal Griener (1994) contended that the presence of the Latin imperfect tense—pingebat (was painting), as opposed to pinxit (painted)—is a deliberate reference to Pliny’s Natural History (1:26–27). Pliny relates that Apelles, the greatest painter of antiquity, cast his inscriptions in the imperfect tense, with its implication of incompletion, for several reasons: to express modesty, to fend off critics, and to indicate that the work had been interrupted and could be taken up again if desired. According to Bätschmann and Griener, in this painting the tense implies that Holbein’s abilities will continue to improve and that there are greater achievements yet to come; it may also express Holbein’s deliberate wish to associate himself with Apelles. Johann Ekhart von Borries (1999) challenged this view, citing the lack of documentary evidence that Holbein was either educated in such matters or personally identified with Apelles. Furthermore, he noted that the artist was only the latest of several prominent German painters to employ the Apelles imperfect. The presence of the tense in this portrait may thus reflect not a special interest in Apelles but simply a current fashion. Whatever Holbein’s motivation, the Hertenstein portrait contains his earliest usage of this form of inscription, which appears later in considerably more ambitious paintings, such as The Ambassadors of 1533 (National Gallery, London).
[2013; adapted from Ainsworth 2013]
The portrait is painted in oil on paper. In 1906 the paper support was glued to a seventeenth-century wood panel composed of three pieces of wood, with the grain oriented vertically; it was then cradled. In 1936 the verso was thickly coated with wax. There are several dents and wrinkles in the surface, visible in raking light, as well as an overall pebbly texture typical of a paper support. Beneath the inscription by the artist at the upper left, there are fragmentary characters, including a capital S. Remnants of gray paint on top of the S are visually identical with the surrounding background paint and suggest that these characters may have been painted out by the artist, only to be exposed by later cleaning.
Infrared reflectography (see Additional Images, fig. 1) revealed simple contours drawn with a crumbly black material, perhaps charcoal or black chalk. Facial features, including a searching line for the contour of the chin and several curves for the right iris, nose, and lips, were put in place. When compared with the final painted image, the underdrawn nose is slightly more upturned, the right nostril almost visible, the mouth more open, and the right eye slightly lower and farther to the left. Infrared reflectography also showed certain contours of the cap, a general sketching-in of the form, and some folds in the red garment. The neckline of the shirt is drawn slightly higher than in the final painted image. Underdrawn lines in the hands, evident through the paint film, were also visible under the microscope. The frieze of figures, which exhibits a particularly fluid, facile technique, was apparently executed without underdrawing.
There does not appear to be an overall preparatory paint layer. Most of the portrait seems to have been painted directly on the sized paper, but an initial thin white paint was selectively applied beneath the flesh passages and the red-lake clothing.
All the sitter’s jewelry has been enhanced by touches of gold leaf, affixed in the case of the six rings with a pale yellow mordant. The image on the signet ring is largely illegible. Four of the other rings are embellished with brightly colored gems, and a fifth is set with a cameo. The chain around the neck and the embroidered gold neckline use a buff-colored mordant and are also abraded. The gold aiglets dangling from the cap are somewhat abraded; under the stereomicroscope, only a few tiny strokes of what appears to be a brown resinous mordant can be located. The armrest of the chair is decorated with gilt highlights and small dots of gilding.
The paint layers are generally abraded and/or thinned, particularly the flesh tones and details of the hair. The upper corners are complete restorations. The bright green edging of the costume was painted in layers, beginning with white mixed with a coarsely ground blue pigment, followed by a yellowish green and topped with an emerald green glaze. The brilliant, transparent color and the tiny spots of brown in the glaze suggest that this is a copper-green pigment. In the dark passages, subtle shading and indications of folds are now suppressed owing to natural aging of the paint medium.
[2013; adapted from German Paintings catalogue]
Inscription: Signed, dated, and inscribed (upper left): DA·ICH·HET·DIE·GE / STALT·WAS·ICH·22· / ·IAR·ALT·1517·H·H· / ·PINGEBAT (When I looked like this I was twenty-two years old, 1517. H.H. painted it)
Hertenstein family, Lucerne; Hauptmann [captain] von Hertsenstein, probably Franz Ludwig von Hertenstein (until 1819; sold as a portrait of Jakob von Hertenstein to Burckhardt-Wildt); Daniel Burckhardt-Wildt, Basel (d. 1819); his daughter, Anna Katharina Burckhardt-Werthemann; her daughter, Marie-Charlotte Burckhardt-Werthemann; probably to her daughter, Julie Vischer-Burckhardt, and sold by her husband, Peter Vischer-Burckhardt in the 1850s; Charles Spencer Canning, 10th Earl of Cork and Orrery, Marston, Frome, Somerset (until 1905; sale, Chrstie's, London, November 25, 1905, no. 50, for £115.10 to Cox); [Colnaghi, London, 1906; sold to MMA]
Indianapolis. John Herron Art Museum. "Holbein and His Contemporaries," October 22–December 24, 1950, no. 33.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "German Drawings: Masterpieces from Five Centuries," May 10–June 10, 1956, suppl. no. 198.
Kunstmuseum Basel. "Die Malerfamilie Holbein in Basel," June 4–September 25, 1960, no. 145.
New York. Wildenstein. "The Italian Heritage," May 17–August 29, 1967, no. 38.
Kunstmuseum Basel. "Hans Holbein the Younger," April 1–July 2, 2006, no. 30.
Vienna. Kunsthistorisches Museum. "Dürer, Cranach, Holbein; Die Entdeckung des Menschen: Das deutsche Porträt um 1500," May 31–September 4, 2011, no. 79.
Munich. Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung. "Dürer, Cranach, Holbein; Die Entdeckung des Menschen: Das deutsche Porträt um 1500," September 16, 2011–January 15, 2012, no. 79.
[Roger Fry]. "Portrait of a Man by Holbein. Recently Acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of New York." Burlington Magazine 43 (October 1906), pp. 48, 53, ill. p. 52, attributes it to Holbein [the Younger], and tentatively suggests identification of the subject as Holbein's brother Ambrosius, who would have been 22 years old in 1517, the year the picture was painted; calls the frieze "Mantegnesque".
"Principal Accessions: A Portrait by Holbein." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 1 (November 1906), pp. 150–51, ill., observe that the bas-relief in the background is probably derived from engravings of Mantegna's school.
R. Riggenbach. Letter to Roger Fry (?). November 20, 1906, consults with [Paul] Ganz, who observes that the date makes one think of Lucerne, and the coat of arms suggests a Hertenstein.
Roger Fry. Letter to his wife, Helen Fry. November 1, 1906 [published in Ref. Sutton 1972, vol. 1, p. 270, letter no. 199].
Roger Fry. Letter to his wife, Helen Fry. April 12, 1906 [published in Ref. Sutton 1972, vol. 1, p. 262, letter no. 186].
"Sammlungen: Ein neuer Holbein." Kunstchronik 18 (1906), cols. 78, 120.
Alois Hauser the Younger. Letter to Colnaghi and Co. July 10, 1906 [only the English translation of the letter survives in the files of the Department of European Paintings], describes the procedure he used to transfer the paper to wood, a strong, well-seasoned panel from a 17th-century picture.
"The New Holbein: Unknown Gentleman of Basel Purchased with the Rogers Bequest." New York Times (November 11, 1906), p. SMA4.
Paul Ganz. "Hans Holbeins Italienfahrt." Suddeutsche Monatshefte 6 (1909), pp. 598–99, 609, identifies it as a portrait of Benedikt von Hertenstein, elected to the Town Council (or Großrat) of Lucerne in 1517, and describes the coat of arms on the signet ring as a lion rampant [the Hertenstein arms consist of a lion rampant surrounded by deer antlers]; notes that in 1517 Holbein was employed by Benedikt's father Jakob to decorate the family house in Lucerne and asserts that in two of his wall paintings Holbein portrayed Benedikt on horseback—wearing the same doublet as in the MMA portrait—and at the feet of St. Benedict; claims that the gold chain he wears in all these likenesses was bequeathed to him by his mother; mentions the Roman Triumph in the background, indicating Holbein's knowledge of an engraving after Mantegna, and notes that the same scene appears in one of the friezes for the Hertensteinhaus.
Elsa Frölicher. Die Porträtkunst Hans Holbeins des Jüngeren und ihr Einfluss auf die Schweizerische Bildnismalerei im XVI. Jahrhundert. Strasbourg, 1909, pp. 19, 26, 31, 80 n. 51, pl. 5, considers it Holbein's first meaningful and confident use of the half-figure.
Willy Hes. Ambrosius Holbein. Strasbourg, 1911, p. 18.
Morton H. Bernath. New York und Boston. Leipzig, 1912, p. 60, fig. 55.
Paul Ganz. Hans Holbein d. J.: Des Meisters Gemälde. Stuttgart, 1912, pp. XIV, 233, 255, ill. p.15, comments on Holbein's development as a portrait painter here, as compared with his portrait of Jakob Meyer [of 1516; Kunstmuseum Basel]; notes that the sitter was killed at the battle of Bicocca in 1522.
Arthur B. Chamberlain. Hans Holbein the Younger. London, 1913, vol. 1, pp. 72–74, 86, 162, pl. 24; vol. 2, pp. 278, 347, accepts Ganz's identification of the subject but finds the coat of arms indecipherable; notes that the frieze is comparable to one in Holbein's drawing for a dagger sheath in the Basel Gallery [vol. 2, pl. 46; Kunstmuseum, Basel].
H. Knackfuß. Holbein der Jüngere. 5th German ed. Bielefeld, 1914, p. 25.
Kenyon Cox. "Workmanship." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 12 (July 1917), p. 148, ill. p. 151.
Paul Ganz inSchweizerisches Künstler-Lexikon. Ed. Carl Brun. Vol. 4, Frauenfeld, 1917, pp. 222, 224.
Paul Ganz. "A Portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger." Burlington Magazine 38 (May 1921), p. 221, mentions it in relation to a newly discovered male portrait, which he attributes to Holbein the Younger and tentatively identifies as Jakob von Hertenstein, father of Bendikt [this painting, in the Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, is now attributed to Holbein the Elder and not identified with Jakob].
Wilhelm Suida. "Hans Holbein der Jüngere und die Kunst der Lombardei." Jahresbericht [der Amerbach Gesellschaft] (1921), pp. 15, 28, thinks the decorations in the background of the Meyer [Kunstmuseum, Basel] and Hertenstein portraits were probably based on indirect knowledge of Italian sources; notes that a frieze in Bramante's painting of philosophers in the Casa Panigarola-Prinetti [1477; now Brera, Milan] is similar in style and dimensions to the one over Hertenstein's head in our picture; acknowledges that the artist was more likely to have indirect awareness of this kind of device than to have had first hand knowledge of the Bramante painting; remarks that the influence of Lombard painting is so pronounced during Holbein's Lucerne period that it is without doubt possible that he traveled to Milan between 1518 and 1519.
Joseph Gantner. "Aus der neuern Holbein-Forschung, III: Ein neu entdecktes Porträt Hans Holbeins des Jüngern. II." Neue Zürcher Zeitung und Schweizerisches Handelsblatt 142, no. 881 (June 16, 1921), unpaginated, mentions this portrait.
Paul Ganz. "Hans Holbein le Jeune (Portraits)." Pages d'art (July 1921), p. 196.
Joseph Bernhart. Holbein der Jüngere. Munich, 1922, pp. 27–28.
Salomon Reinach. Répertoire de peintures du moyen age et de la renaissance (1280–1580). Vol. 6, Paris, 1923, p. 51, no. 2, ill. (sketch).
Aloys Schulte. Geschichte der grossen ravensburger Handelsgesellschaft, 1380–1530. Stuttgart, 1923, vol. 1, pp. 232–33.
H. A. Schmid inAllgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Hans Vollmer. Vol. 17, Leipzig, 1924, pp. 337–38, as probably Benedikt von Hertenstein.
Paul Ganz. Malerei der Fruhrenaissance in der Schweiz. Zürich, 1924, p. 99, pl. 58.
Malcolm Vaughan. "Holbein Portraits in America." International Studio 88 (November 1927), p. 22.
Paul Ganz. "Ein unbekanntes Bildnis aus Holbeins Baslerzeit." Jahrbuch für Kunst und Kunstpflege in der Schweiz 4 (1927), p. 174.
Wilhelm Stein. Holbein. Berlin, 1929, pp. 44, 46, pl. 17, notes that the naked figures of the standard bearers and the Wild Men in the frieze here do not appear in Mantegna's Triumph engraving.
Walter Hugelshofer. "Das Bildnis eines Luzerner Geistlichen von Hans Holbein." Neue Zürcher Zeitung und Schweizerisches Handelsblatt 150, no. 1627 (August 25, 1929), unpaginated, mentions it among the group of Lucerne portraits.
Werner Cohn. Der Wandel der Architekturgestaltung in den Werken Hans Holbeins D. J. Strasbourg, 1930, pp. 2, 52, 97, refers to it as a portrait of Oswald [sic] von Hertenstein.
Ludwig Baldass. "Ein Frühwerk Hans Holbein des Jüngeren." Kunstchronik (October–November 1931), p. 62.
Hans Tietze. Meisterwerke europäischer Malerei in Amerika. Vienna, 1935, p. 339, pl. 213 [English ed., "Masterpieces of European Painting in America," New York, 1939, p. 324, pl. 213].
Charles L. Kuhn. A Catalogue of German Paintings of the Middle Ages and Renaissance in American Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1936, p. 79, no. 348, pl. 71.
Wilhelm Waetzoldt. Hans Holbein der Jüngere: Werk und Welt. Berlin, 1938, pp. 50, 112, 222, pl. 16.
Hans Reinhardt. Holbein. New York, 1938, p. 16.
Willy Brändly. "Zu unserem Bilde. Das Porträt Johannes Ludwig Zimmermann (Xilotectus) in Luzern, gemalt von Hans Holbein d. J." Zwingliana 7, no. 5 (1941), p. 331.
Josephine L. Allen. "Notes on the Cover: A Portrait by Holbein." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 2 (January 1944), notes inside front and back covers, ill. inside back cover, and color detail on front cover, observes that "with a certain amount of good will and a knowledge of what to expect one can see the lion rampant surrounded by the antlers of a deer that formed the Hertenstein arms" on the seal ring.
Harry B. Wehle and Margaretta Salinger. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Early Flemish, Dutch and German Paintings. New York, 1947, pp. 213–14, ill.
Heinrich Alfred Schmid. Hans Holbein der Jüngere: Sein Aufstieg zur Meisterschaft und sein englischer Stil. Vol. 1–2, Basel, 1948, vol. 1, p. 68, judging from a photograph, remarks that the style and composition differ from that of Holbein's contemporary portraits, due perhaps to some powerful new influence; asserts that a final judgment about the attribution is not possible without closer examination of the portrait's condition, its inscription, and the paint handling; does not think enough evidence is available to identify the sitter as Benedikt; points out that two pictures from the circle of Holbein have similar friezes: a Dormition of the Virgin (Akademie [der bildenden Künste], Vienna), and an architectural painting with the Judgment of Solomon ([Kunstmuseum] Basel).
Julius S. Held. "Book Reviews: Harry B. Wehle and Margaretta M. Salinger . . ., 1947." Art Bulletin 31 (June 1949), p. 140.
Walter Hugelshofer. "Die Anfänge Hans Holbeins des Jüngeren als Bildnismaler." Phoebus 2, no. 2 (1949), pp. 60, 62–64, 66–67, fig. 4, as without doubt a youthful work of Holbein the Younger, in good condition except for losses in both upper corners; finds identification of the sitter with Benedikt impossible to confirm, noting that although the Triumph motif can be associated with the Hertensteinhaus, the signet ring is no longer legible; believes our portrait could represent a member of another Lucerne family, or even a member of a Basel family, since Holbein was in that city at the beginning of 1517; comments on the rarity of preliminary drawings for Holbein's earlier portraits, including ours, in comparison with the later portraits for which pencil studies frequently survive.
Paul Schnyder von Wartensee. Letter to Francis Henry Taylor (June 16, 1949), encloses an article he wrote for an unspecified and undated Swiss newspaper in which he discusses this painting, focusing on the coat of arms on the signet ring, which he found illegible when he saw the painting on a recent visit to the Metropolitan, despite claims [Ref. Allen 1944] that the Hertenstein arms appear on it.
Murray Pease. Letter to Paul Schnyder von Wartensee. June 20, 1949, notes that about three years ago "somewhat extravagant" old restorations and a restorers varnish were removed from the surface of this painting; at this time "a reinforcement in gilt paint of the design on the seal ring" was removed, as it had lead to inacuracies in its interpretation; once these reinforcements were removed, he notes, the original arms were examined under magnification, and "their identification by this means was quite positive".
Holbein and His Contemporaries. Exh. cat., John Herron Art Museum. Indianapolis, 1950, unpaginated, no. 33, ill.
Ulrich Christoffel. Hans Holbein d. J. Berlin, 1950, p. 27 [1924 ed., p. 60], based on a photograph, sees only a general connection with the school of Holbein.
Paul Ganz. The Paintings of Hans Holbein. London, 1950, p. 225, no. 27, pl. 61, remarks that its authenticity was challenged by Fry [Ref. 1906, Burlington Magazine, where Fry actually attributes the portrait to Holbein] and Christoffel [Ref. 1950].
Wilhelm Pinder. Vom Wesen und Werden Deutscher Formen: Geschichtliche Betrachtungen. Vol. 4, Holbein der Jüngere und das Ende der altdeutschen Kunst: Text und Tafeln. Cologne, 1951, pp. 69, 71.
J. A. Schmoll, gen. Eisenwerth. "Zum Todesbewusstsein in Holbeins Bildnissen." Annales Universitatis Saraviensis 1, no. 4 (1952), pp. 354, 366 n. 42, fig. 14.
Hans Reinhardt. "Bemerkungen zum Spätwerk Hans Holbeins des Älteren." Zeitshcrift für schweizerische Archäologie und Kunstgeschichte 15 (1954–55), p. 16.
Hans Werner Grohn. Hans Hollbein d. J. als Maler. Leipzig, 1955, pp. 14–15.
Joseph Gantner. Schicksale des Menschenbildes: Von der romanischen Stilisierung zur modernen Abstraktion. Bern, 1958, pp. 79–80 [from reprint of speech given October 30, 1943 for Basel University's celebration of the 400th anniversary of Holbein's death, published as Heft 15 "Basler Universitätsreden," see p. 11], is convinced that Holbein visited Italy before painting the Hertenstein and Meyer portraits [1516; Kunstmuseum Basel], as they are so strongly Italian in character.
Die Malerfamilie Holbein in Basel. Exh. cat., Kunstmuseum Basel. [Basel], 1960, pp. 177–78, no. 145, pl. 60, accept the attribution to Holbein without hesitation.
Georg Schmidt in "Hans Holben der Jüngere: Bildnis des Junkers Benedkt von Hertenstein." Die Basler Museen (July–August 1960), unpaginated, article on back cover, ill. on front cover, sees this portrait as exemplifying carefree youth giving ground to the deep seriousness of a mature man.
Ludwig Baldass. "Offene Fragen auf der Basler Holbein Ausstellung von 1960." Zeitschrift für Kunstwissenschaft 15 (1961), p. 87, fig. 2 (detail), in this picture, sees a new, freer quality in Holbein's portraiture, noting the absence of schematization in the composition, which is something between a bust and half-length portrait, and alternates between symmetry and asymmetry.
Werner Lauber. Hans Holbein der Jüngere und Luzern. Lucerne, 1962, pp. 30, 53–55, 63–64 n. 19, ill. (unnumbered pl.), comments on the ease and simplicity here that is not present in Holbein's earlier portraits, and sees this painting as not only marking the birth of his best known portrait style, but as the first great Renaissance portrait by a German master; notes that more than any other work, this portrait provided countless visitors to the 1960 Holbein exhibition a glimpse at the boundary between the art and world of father and son; comments on the improvement in the picture's appearance after MMA conservation in 1958.
Otto Benesch. German Painting from Dürer to Holbein. Geneva, 1966, p. 157, claims that Holbein "visited Milan in the winter of 1518–1519, probably going on to Mantua, since he used motifs from Mantegna's 'Triumphal Procession' on the Lucerne façade [of the Hertensteinhaus], and also decorated the room in which he placed a portrait of young Benedikt von Hertenstein . . . with a classical triumphal procession".
E[berhard]. Ruhmer inKindlers Malerei Lexikon. Ed. Rolf Linnenkamp. Vol. 3, Zurich, 1966, pp. 273–74, 283, ill. p. 272.
Gert von der Osten and Horst Vey. Painting and Sculpture in Germany and the Netherlands 1500 to 1600. Baltimore, 1969, p. 102.
Hans Werner Grohn inL'opera pittorica completa di Holbein il Giovane. Milan, 1971, pp. 88–89, no. 18, ill.
Denys Sutton, ed. Letters of Roger Fry. New York, 1972, vol. 1, p. 25, 262, n. 2 to letter 186, fig. 31.
Hans Reinhardt inNeue deutsche Biographie. Vol. 9, Berlin, 1972, p. 516.
Gert von der Osten. Deutsche und niederländische Kunst der Reformationszeit. Cologne, 1973, p. 111.
Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 261, 268, fig. 479.
Burton B. Fredericksen. "'E COSI DESIO ME MENA'." J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 10 (1982), p. 31, fig. 11, compares the representation of a horse towards the center of the background frieze in our portrait with the horse in the recently acquired Allegory attributed to Holben in the J. Paul Getty Museum.
John Pope-Hennessy. "Roger Fry and The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Oxford, China, and Italy: Writings in Honour of Sir Harold Acton on his Eightieth Birthday. Ed. Edward Chaney and Neil Ritchie. London, 1984, pp. 233, 236, notes that Fry had at one point considered transferring this painting to canvas, "but an excited letter from Basel explained that the picture was on paper on panel, and that transfer was therefore inadmissible".
John Rowlands. Holbein: The Paintings of Hans Holbein the Younger. Oxford, 1985, pp. 29–30, 126, no. 6, pl. 7.
Introduction by James Snyder inThe Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Renaissance in the North. New York, 1987, pp. 15, 117, colorpl. 83.
Christian Müller. Hans Holbein d.J.: Zeichnungen aus dem Kupferstichkabinett der Öffentlichen Kunstsammlung Basel. Basel, 1988, p. 12.
Oskar Bätschmann. Malerei der Neuzeit. [Zurich], 1989, p. 2, fig. 6, wonders if Benedikt brought Mantegna prints from Italy.
Maryan Ainsworth. "'Paternes for phiosioneamyes': Holbein's Portraiture Reconsidered." Burlington Magazine 132 (March 1990), p. 175, figs. 3 and 4 (infrared reflectogram detail), observes that in this portrait, "the preparatory drawing is itself the underdrawing," as Holbein pasted it on panel and then painted over it; mentions other instances in which Holbein used a drawing as the painting support, includng the portrait of his wife and two children in Basel (Kunstmuseum); here, using a "dry, crumbly medium, probably black chalk," he sketched the features in lightly: the lips are slightly parted and the nose less in profile than in the final painting; remarks that technical examination suggests that the underlying panel is a replacement of the original one [see Ref. Hauser 1906].
Christian Müller. "New Evidence for Hans Holbein the Younger's Wall Paintings in Basel Town Hall." Burlington Magazine 133 (January 1991), p. 26, in his discussion of Holbein's plans for scenes of "Emperor Sertorius" and "The Parable of the Horses" (preserved in copies), mentions that horse-tamers at the left and right are based on the sculpture of the Dioscuri, Monte Cavallo, Rome, as is the case, he believes, in the background frieze of our painting; suspects that Holbein knew the Dioscuri through an ornamental print by Nicoletto da Modena (Bartsch 55).
Colnaghi in America: A Survey to Commemorate the First Decade of Colnaghi New York. Ed. Nicholas H. J. Hall. New York, 1992, pp. 27, 131.
Nott Caviezel in1000 Years of Swiss Art. Ed. Heinz Horat. New York, 1992, p. 89, ill. (color), remarks that the composition and the background frieze suggest the artist spent time in Italy, "but may also denote the trade relations the Hertensten family . . . entertained with the south".
Charles D. Cuttler. "Holbein's Inscriptions." Sixteenth Century Journal 24 (Summer 1993), p. 372.
Claudia Baer. Die italienischen Bau- und Ornamentformen in der Augsburger Kunst zu Beginn des 16. Jahrhunderts. PhD diss., Freie Universität, Berlin. Frankfurt, 1993, p. 198 n. 48.
Claudia Hermann and Jochen Hesse. "Das ehemalige Hertensteinhaus in Luzern: Die Fassadenmalerei von Hans Holbein d. J." Unsere Kunstdenkmäler 44, no. 2 (1993), p. 179.
Christopher S. Wood. Albrecht Altdorfer and the Origins of Landscape. Chicago, 1993, pp. 143, 145, discusses this portrait in the context of works painted on parchment attached to panel and finds it "inconceivable that a painter would have piled up so much pigment on a thin, flexible, unattached sheet".
Oskar Bätschmann and Pascal Griener. "Holbein—Apelles. Wettbewerb und Definition des Künstlers." Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 57, no. 4 (1994), pp. 636–38, note that in the inscription, the sitter's words are recorded in the past tense and in contemporary German, while the artist communicates in Latin, in the imperfect tense; believe that Holbein's use of the imperfect rather than the past tense for the act of painting reveals his awareness of a discussion in Pliny's "Natural History" (1.26–27), in which Pliny claims that Apelles used the imperfect, with its connotation of incompletion, to express modesty, to guard against criticism, and to imply that the work was interrupted and could potentially be continued; further note that Pliny saw the imperfect as implying that the artist's ability is even greater than what is present in the work at hand, and that the future promises still greater achievements.
Stefan Gronert. Bild-Individualität: Die "Erasmus"-Bildnisse von Hans Holbein dem Jüngeren. Basel, 1996, pp. 48–52, fig. 5.
Derek Wilson. Hans Holbein: Portrait of an Unknown Man. London, 1996, pp. 61–62, comments on the unusual combination of a three-quarter view of the sitter's face, with eyes focused directly on the viewer; notes that "someone looking out of the corners of his eyes almost inevitably appears uncertain, haughty or shifty. It was no doubt for this reason that Holbein subsequently abandoned this pose almost completely"; finds the sitter's apparent diffidence out of keeping with the richness of his dress and the projection of social standing; believes that his "unsatisfactory treatment [here] is probably the result of painterly ambition unmatched by experience".
Stephanie Buck. Holbein am Hofe Heinrichs VIII. Berlin, 1997, pp. 157–58, fig. 29, asserts that the frieze here has the effect of heroicizing the sitter; notes that although Holbein depends on Mantegna's "Triumphs of Caesar" for its design, he has varied the composition and some of the motifs, creating a less solemn and more lively and emphatic procession; sees the liveliness of the frieze—less architectural ornament than sculpture brought to life—as underlining the lively energy of the young Hertenstein; judging from Albert Landerer's reconstruction of the Hertensteinhaus decoration [see Ref. Rowlands 1985, pl. 143], asserts that Holbein followed Mantegna's Triumph engraving more faithfully in this context, suggesting an actual trip to Italy in the winter of 1517–18.
Oskar Bätschmann and Pascal Griener. Hans Holbein. Princeton, 1997, pp. 24–25, 46, 68, fig. 20, believe that Holbein included the frieze after Mantegna at the urging of Hertenstein himself, and that the patron provided the painter with reproductive prints to refer to.
Charles Sterling and Maryan W. Ainsworth inThe Robert Lehman Collection. Vol. 2, Fifteenth- to Eighteenth-Century European Paintings. New York, 1998, p. 24 n. 6.
D. M. Klinger and Antje Höttler. Die Malerbrüder Ambrosius und Hans d. J. Holbein. Cheb, Czech Republic, 1998, p. 88, no. 6, ill. p. 89 and colorpl. IV.
Johann Eckart von Borries. "Review of Bätschmann and Griener 1997." Journal für Kunstgeschichte 3, no. 2 (1999), p. 156, rejects the notion that the "Apelles imperfect" used by Holbein in the signature here was an indication of the artist's special interest in Pliny and the latter's understanding of the role of the artist [see Refs. Bätschmann and Griener 1994 and 1997]; instead sees the verb form in the signature as a fashion in German painting at the time that lasted for two decades, noting that Holbein was one of the last to use the imperfect in this context; questions Bätschmann and Griener's view of Holbein's general learnedness.
Stephanie Buck. Hans Holbein, 1497/98–1543. Cologne, 1999, pp. 19–20, fig. 18.
Jeanne Elizabeth Neuchterlein. "Holbein and the Reformation of Art." PhD diss., University of California, Berkeley, 2000, pp. 241–43, fig. 5.8.
Stephanie Buck. "International Exchange: Holbein at the Crossroads of Art and Craftsmanship." Hans Holbein: Paintings, Prints, and Reception. Ed. Mark Roskill and John Oliver Hand. Washington, 2001, pp. 61, 63, fig. 9.
Christian Müller. "It is the Viewpoint that Matters: Obsevations on the Illusionsitic Effect of Early Works by Hans Holbein." Hans Holbein: Paintings, Prints, and Reception. Ed. Mark Roskill and John Oliver Hand. Washington, 2001, pp. 26–27, fig. 12, notes that our portrait is optimally viewed from the right, and that Holbein deliberately widened the sitter's form and the angle of the corner he inhabits to enhance a view from the right; this, he believes, emphasizes the transience of the sitter as well as that of the viewer as he passes by the portrait; mentions other paintings in which Holbein creates a similar effect.
Quentin Buvelot inHans Holbein the Younger, 1497/98–1543: Portraitist of the Renaissance. Exh. cat., Mauritshuis, The Hague. Zwolle, The Netherlands, 2003, p. 167 n. 24, notes that in Holbein's earlier portraits the sitter generally looks away from the viewer and mentions this portrait and the 1527 portrait of Lady Guildford [Saint Louis Art Museum] as exceptions to this rule.
Susan Foister. Holbein and England. New Haven, 2004, p. 171, fig. 177.
David R. Smith. "Portrait and Counter-Portrait in Holbein's 'The Family of Sir Thomas More'." Art Bulletin 87 (September 2005), pp. 498, 506 n. 104, fig. 15, notes that Holbein "has turned Mantegna's fairly sedate, archaeologically correct Roman triumph into a much rowdier parade of nudes and wildmen," thus "wittily subverting both classical culture and the urbane, pink-clad figure of von Hertenstein".
Jochen Sander. Hans Holbein d. J.: Tafelmaler in Basel, 1515–1532. Munich, 2005, pp. 12, 29 n. 12, p. 30 n. 20, pp. 97–98 n.13, pp. 102, 106, 116–19 n. 3, pp. 121–22 nn. 49–70, pp. 123, 141 n. 7, pp. 459–60, fig. 73 (infrared detail), fig. 74 (x-radiograph), colorpl. 23, notes that the "triumphator" is not depicted in the frieze, probably because in 1517 the part of Mantegna's engraving showing Caesar on a chariot was not yet available.
Maryan W. Ainsworth et al. inHans Holbein the Younger: The Basel Years, 1515–1532. Exh. cat., Kunstmuseum Basel. Munich, 2006, pp. 15, 62, 115, 172, 178–80, 192, 214, 264, 294, no. 30, ill. p. 179 (color).
Jochen Sander inDürer, Cranach, Holbein; Die Entdeckung des Menschen: Das deutsche Porträt um 1500. Ed. Sabine Haag et al. Exh. cat., Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. Munich, 2011, pp. 139, 148, 151, no. 79, ill. pp. 138, 149 (color, overall and detail).
Maryan W. Ainsworth inGerman Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1350–1600. New Haven, 2013, pp. 129–33, 300–301, no. 29, ill. (color) and figs. 111, (infrared reflectogram detail), 113 (color, forty-five-degree angle view).