Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Ulrich Fugger the Younger (1490–1525)

Hans Maler (German, Ulm, born ca. 1480, died ca. 1526–29 Schwaz (?))
Oil on linden
15 7/8 x 12 3/4 in. (40.3 x 32.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Bequest of Benjamin Altman, 1913
Accession Number:
Not on view
Hans Maler produced numerous portraits of members of the Fugger family, who by the sixteenth century had become one of Europe’s greatest mercantile and banking dynasties. This painting shows Ulrich Fugger the Younger at age thirty-five, in the final year of his life, when he represented his family in the flourishing mining center of Schwaz in Tirol. A nearly identical version exists in a private collection. The Fuggers may have commissioned such relatively small portraits in multiples to distribute among family members and important business partners and to decorate the family’s residences and offices.

Ulrich Fugger the Younger was born in Augsburg, into what would soon become one of Europe’s greatest mercantile and banking dynasties. His father—Ulrich the Elder—and his uncles Georg and Jakob Fugger together founded a flourishing spice and textile trading firm in 1494, which under Jakob’s leadership became immensely prosperous by expanding into mining and finance. After undertaking mercantile training in Venice (1506–7) and Rome (1510), the young Ulrich traveled widely in central Europe as a representative of the Fugger firm. In 1516 he married Veronika Gassner, the daughter of the Augsburg merchant Lukas Gassner, who, like Ulrich’s uncle Jakob Fugger, owned interests in the Tirolean mining industry. Ulrich increasingly had business in Tirol, both at the Habsburg court in Innsbruck and at the mint in Hall. His final station in life was the flourishing mining center of Schwaz in Tirol, where he represented the Fuggers probably beginning in the early 1520s. It was surely in Schwaz in 1525 that Hans Maler painted the Museum’s portrait. Ulrich Fugger died in that year, less than a month after his thirty-fifth birthday. He was interred at Schwaz’s Pfarrkirche.

A nearly identical example of this portrait, also by Hans Maler, is in a private collection and was until recently owned by the Fugger-Babenhausen family. Although neither panel bears the sitter’s name, an identification is possible based on later portraits that follow Maler’s design and are inscribed with Ulrich Fugger’s name. Moreover, before the Museum’s panel was planed down for the application of a cradle, it bore an old, probably original inscription dating the work to 1525 and giving the sitter’s age as thirty-five, which corresponds exactly with Ulrich Fugger’s biography.

Friedländer (1895) was the first to publish the portrait and associate it with Hans Maler. The attribution has not been contested. At the time, the picture was in the Heyl collection in Darmstadt. On the basis of the inscription, then still on the reverse, displaying the date and sitter’s age, Friedländer speculated that it preceded the other version, then in the Fugger-Babenhausen collection, which lacks an inscription. Most writers who have addressed the chronology of the two works have followed Friedländer’s conjecture that the Museum’s version is earlier.

The two examples of this portrait are remarkably close in size and design, and both are typical of Hans Maler’s style and technique. The surface differences between the two paintings appear to be a matter of condition, for the privately owned picture is better preserved. The Museum’s portrait was harshly cleaned at some time in the past, and many of its finer details remain only as remnants. These extensive losses have increased the severity of the representation, making the MMA portrait look harder and flatter than it should.

This portrait’s divergences from its underlying design are few but significant. Relative to the underdrawing, the sitter’s right brow and iris were shifted slightly inward. Also, the height of the forehead was reduced, and the cap was made smaller. In fact, the portrait appears to diverge from its underdrawing in the same ways it differs from the privately owned example, namely, in the protrusion of the right brow, the outward tilt of the right iris, and the volume of the cap, all of which are more pronounced in the privately owned work (an observation that is confirmed by comparing tracings of the two paintings). The most important effect of the changes in the Museum’s portrait is the reduction in the sag of the right eye, which is conspicuous on the other panel. This suggests, against the chronology proposed by Friedländer, that the portrait in private hands was completed first, and that the MMA portrait, whose underlying design was probably transferred from a common model, was modified during the painting process to improve the sitter’s appearance.

Hans Maler’s portraits of Ulrich Fugger represent just one part of his more extensive work for the Fuggers and their close associates in Schwaz, made possible by the increased presence of the Fugger firm in the mining town from 1522 onward. Between 1524 and 1526, Maler produced portraits of Ulrich’s cousin Anton Fugger in three different types, a portrait of Jakob Fugger after a print by Hans Burgkmair, and a portrait of the Fugger bookkeeper Matthäus Schwarz. Of these, the series of bust-length, three-quarters-view likenesses of Anton Fugger painted in 1525 is most similar to the portraits of Ulrich, which are from the same year. The Fuggers may well have commissioned those relatively small works in multiples to distribute as mementos among family members and important business partners. It is conceivable that some were used to decorate the family’s newly erected residence and office in Schwaz, the Fuggerhaus, completed in 1525. As Krause (2008) suggested, Ulrich and Anton Fugger, through their connections to the Habsburg court in Innsbruck, possibly saw as a model for patronage Maler’s 1521 portrait series of Archduke Ferdinand I and his wife, Anna of Hungary.

[2013; adapted from Waterman 2013]
The support is a single linden board with the grain oriented vertically. The panel has been thinned and cradled and displays a slight vertical corrugation at far right. The white ground preparation and paint layers extend to the very edge of the panel, and losses along the left edge indicate it was trimmed.
Overall the painting is fairly well preserved, although the thin dark strokes of paint that describe the gathering in the white shirt and the geometric pattern in the collar have been abraded to such an extent that only portions remain. Vertical pale yellow catchlights in the whites of the eyes are not original. With magnification, remnants of the original catchlights are visible in both eyes: four horizontal strokes of white paint, one in the white of each eye and one in the iris, both to the right of center.
Infrared reflectography (see Additional Images, fig. 1) revealed underdrawing in the face and clothing. The design was evidently traced from another source (see Catalogue Entry), and it appears that a liquid medium was used. There are slight discrepancies between the underdrawing and the paint application: in the drawing, the placement of the collar of the white shirt is farther to the left, the contours of the sitter’s right brow and upper forehead jut out farther, and the cap is larger overall. In all other respects the paint layers follow the underdrawing very closely. Infrared reflectography also clarified a deep black floral pattern applied to the chest and sleeves, now difficult to see because of changes in the paint, and revealed a finger-or thumbprint in the paint in the lower right corner.
[2013; adapted from German Paintings catalogue]
Inscription: Dated and inscribed (reverse, covered by cradling): DOMINI / MDXXV / ANNO CVRENTE / XXXV / ETATIS
Maximilian Freiherr von Heyl, Darmstadt (by 1895–1910; sold to Kleinberger); [Kleinberger, Paris and New York, 1910; sold for $22,000 to Altman]; Benjamin Altman, New York (1910–d. 1913)

Max J. Friedländer. "Hans der Maler zu Schwaz." Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft 18 (1895), p. 416, no. 14, as in the collection of Freiherr von Heyl, Darmstadt; attributes it to Hans Maler and identifies the sitter as Ulrich Fugger; records the inscription, then still visible; mistakenly states that the picture must date between January 1 and April 17, 1525, since Fugger was born on April 17, 1490 and the inscription dates the painting 1525 and gives the sitter's age as thirty-five; states that the version then in the collection of Fürst Fugger-Babenhausen, Augsburg, is by the same hand, but that the MMA picture is probably earlier because of the inscription; mentions an engraving of Ulrich in the "Pinacotheca Fuggerorum".

"The Benjamin Altman Bequest." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 8 (November 1913), p. 237.

Handbook of the Benjamin Altman Collection. New York, 1914, pp. 57–58, no. 36.

F. X. Weizinger. "Die Maler-Familie der 'Strigel' in der ehemals freien Reichsstadt Memmingen. . . Anhang: Hans Maler von Ulm, tätig in Schwaz in der 1. Hälfte des 16. Jahrhunderts." Festschrift des Münchener Altertums-Vereins zur Erinnerung an das 50 Jähr. Jubiläum. Munich, 1914, p. 145, no. 20, mistakenly lists it as still in the collection of Freiherr von Heyl, Darmstadt; calls it a replica of the Augsburg version.

François Monod. "La galerie Altman au Metropolitan Museum de New-York (1er article)." Gazette des beaux-arts, 5th ser., 8 (September–October 1923), pp. 196–97, ill.

Handbook of the Benjamin Altman Collection. 2nd ed. New York, 1928, pp. 21–22, no. 1.

H. Hammer in Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Hans Vollmer. Vol. 23, Leipzig, 1929, p. 591.

Hans Tietze. Meisterwerke europäischer Malerei in Amerika. Vienna, 1935, p. 339, pl. 209 [English ed., "Masterpieces of European Painting in America," New York, 1939, p. 323, pl. 209], states that Otto Benesch calls it "a study from nature for the portrait of Fugger in the possession of Count Franz Thun".

Charles L. Kuhn. A Catalogue of German Paintings of the Middle Ages and Renaissance in American Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1936, p. 64, no. 268, pl. LIV.

Harry B. Wehle and Margaretta Salinger. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Early Flemish, Dutch and German Paintings. New York, 1947, pp. 195–96, ill., call the Augsburg version a replica; mention a drawing of this sitter by Hans Holbein the Elder in the Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin.

Millia Davenport. The Book of Costume. New York, 1948, vol. 1, pp. 395–96, no. 1053, ill. (reversed).

Erich Egg. "Die Fugger in Schwaz." Schwazer Heimatblätter no. 13 (1952), unpaginated, ill., mistakenly dates it 1524.

Erich Egg. "Die Fugger und Schwaz." Schwazer Heimatblätter [Sonderheft: Fugger-Feier-Schwaz] (1955), unpaginated, ill.

Norbert Lieb. Die Fugger und die Kunst im Zeitalter der hohen Renaissance. Munich, 1958, pp. 4–5, 293, 296, 324, 465, no. 2, fig. 1, calls the Augsburg version an autograph replica of the MMA original, which he suggests was painted about March 10, 1525, the date of a portrait by Maler of Ulrich's cousin Anton Fugger; lists and illustrates several other portraits of Ulrich, including an enlarged copy on canvas after this work at Schloss Wellenburg.

Heinz v[on]. Mackowitz. Der Maler Hans von Schwaz. Innsbruck, 1960, pp. 47–48, 85, no. 37, fig. 26, calls it a autograph replica from the same time as the Augsburg version.

Alfred Stange. "Hans Maler: Neue Funde und Forschungen." Jahrbuch der Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen in Baden-Württemberg 3 (1966), pp. 92, 98, notes that Maler repeatedly portrayed Ulrich Fugger.

A[lfred]. Stange in Kindlers Malerei Lexikon. Vol. 4, Zürich, 1967, pp. 262, 264.

Francis Haskell. "The Benjamin Altman Bequest." Metropolitan Museum Journal 3 (1970), p. 260, fig. 3.

Erich Egg. Kunst in Tirol. Vol. 2, Malerei und Kunsthandwerk. Innsbruck, 1972, p. 130.

Erich Egg. Kunst in Schwaz. Schwaz, 1974, pp. 57, 67, pl. 66, as one of two portraits of Ulrich Fugger by Maler.

Bruno Bushart in "Zeughaus." Welt im Umbruch: Augsburg zwischen Renaissance und Barock. Exh. cat., Zeughaus. Vol. 1, Augsburg, 1980, p. 143, under no. 34, calls the Augsburg version a repetition of the MMA picture.

Erich Egg in Stadtbuch Schwaz: Natur - Bergbau - Geschichte. Schwaz, 1986, ill. p. 131, mistakenly switches the caption for this picture with one for a portrait of Anton Fugger in the Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe.

Kurt Löcher in The Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 20, New York, 1996, p. 191.

Erich Egg. Kunst in Schwaz: Architektur, Bildhauerei, Malerei, Kunsthandwerk, Fotografie. rev. ed. Schwaz, 2001, p. 118, ill. p. 117 (color).

Annette Kranz. Christoph Amberger—Bildnismaler zu Augsburg: Städtische Eliten im Spiegel ihrer Porträts. Regensburg, 2004, pp. 58, 117 n. 5, p. 139 n. 28, p. 236.

Peter Klein. Letter to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. April 3, 2006, identifies the wood of the panel as linden.

Stefan Krause. "Die Porträts von Hans Maler—Studien zum frühneuzeitlichen Standesporträt." PhD diss., Universität Wien, 2008, pp.15, 47, 51, 56, 89, 98 n. 567, pp. 120, 123, 131, 168, no. 34, ill. p. 225.

Stefan Krause. "Die Porträts von Hans Maler—Der Schwazer Silberrausch der Frühen Neuzeit und seine Akteure." Münchner Jahrbuch der bildenden Kunst 63 (2012), pp. 73, 85, 94 n. 42, p. 99 n. 151, p. 102 n. 217, fig. 21.

Joshua Waterman in German Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1350–1600. New Haven, 2013, pp. 181–83, 310–11, no. 43, ill. (color) and fig. 154 (infrared reflectogram detail).

Another version of this portrait, until recently in the Fugger-Babenhausen collection, Augsburg, is now in another German private collection, and on loan to the Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna. Norbert Lieb (1958) records several additional depictions of Ulrich Fugger, including an enlarged copy of this composition on canvas at Schloss Wellenburg.

Ulrich Fugger was born on April 17, 1490, in Augsburg, son of Jacob Fugger's oldest son, also named Ulrich, and Veronika Lauginger. He married Veronika Gassner, daughter of Augsburg merchant Lukas Gassner, in November 1516. He travelled widely (Venice, Rome, Krakow, Worms), having responsibility for Fugger interests in Nuremberg and in the Tirol, where he died in Schwaz on May 14, 1525, at the age of thirty-five. His role in the family business was a minor one; the leading figure of his generation was his cousin Anton Fugger (1493–1560), who was also portrayed by Maler.
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