Hans Maler worked as a portrait painter in the mining town of Schwaz, just east of Innsbruck. The Schwaz silver works belonged to the most prosperous in Europe, and Sebastian Andorfer, who is shown in this portrait at the age of forty-eight, was one of its leading officials. As Silberbrenner (refiner of silver) he was responsible for guaranteeing the purity of Schwaz silver, a major source of income for the Habsburg Archduke Ferdinand and the Fugger family of Augsburg, whose likenesses Hans Maler also painted.
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Fig. 1. Infrared Reflectogram
Fig. 2. X-radiograph
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Title:Sebastian Andorfer (1469–1537)
Artist:Hans Maler (German, Ulm, born ca. 1480, died ca. 1526–29 Schwaz (?))
Medium:Oil on Swiss stone pine
Dimensions:17 x 14 1/8 in. (43.2 x 35.9 cm)
Credit Line:The Friedsam Collection, Bequest of Michael Friedsam, 1931
This portrait depicts Sebastian Andorfer, a top mining official of Schwaz in Tirol. The inscription at the bottom, which gives the date of 1517 and the sitter’s age of forty-eight, uses a rhyming couplet written in the first person, a form that appears frequently in contemporary portraiture. The sitter’s name has been fitted awkwardly into the space at the right and was executed in a less elegant hand; it is a later addition, possibly recorded from a lost frame. The original part of the inscription appears to have been placed slightly left of center to align it with the sitter’s leftward pose.
Sebastian Andorfer was the son of Jörg Andorfer, who held a prominent position in the mining administration at Schwaz, serving as Silberbrenner (refiner of silver) from 1470 to 1499. Sebastian assumed the post in 1499 and occupied it until his death in 1537. The Schwaz Silberbrenner served under appointment by the Tirolean sovereign; during the first half of Sebastian Andorfer’s tenure this was Emperor Maximilian I (d. 1519), who had ruled Tirol since 1490. The Silberbrenner oversaw the last step in the refinement of silver, which raised the purity to a mandated level, and stamped each ingot with an official mark of certification. When portrayed by Hans Maler in 1517, Sebastian Andorfer had held this position of considerable authority for nearly two decades.
This portrait was first attributed to Hans Maler by Friedländer (unpublished opinion, 1924), who had been instrumental in defining the painter’s oeuvre at the end of the nineteenth century. In light of the picture’s stylistic consistency with other works by Maler, the attribution has remained unchallenged in the literature. Habich (1932) noted the existence of a variant (private collection), also dated 1517, in which Andorfer is depicted beardless. For Habich (who was unaware of Friedländer’s opinion and offered an attribution to Conrad Faber von Creuznach) the portraits exemplified the practice, which he observed in contemporary medals, of recording a change in appearance for eternity. Benesch (1933) ascribed both portraits to Maler and claimed that they document Andorfer’s transformation from a bearded Tirolean rustic into a clean-shaven, modern entrepreneurial type. This interpretation was upheld by Mackowitz (1960) and Osten (1969). The two Andorfer portraits stand as the earliest securely dated works in Maler’s oeuvre.
In a recent study of Maler’s portraits, Krause (2008) rightly challenged the assumptions that informed Benesch’s interpretation, noting that a beard did not necessarily connote provincialism and obsolescence. More importantly, as Krause pointed out, the notion of social elevation at this stage of Andorfer’s career misconstrues the office of Silberbrenner and overlooks the high status that Andorfer had long enjoyed. As studies of the mining management in Schwaz have made clear, Andorfer was not the rustic smelter described by Benesch, but a high official with extensive experience at the most important center of silver mining in the Habsburg realms. It thus seems highly unlikely that a sudden increase in wealth or social status would have occasioned the change in appearance represented here. No known biographical events correlate with the 1517 date of these portraits. Andorfer’s first wife and his father died before 1507 and his second wife in April 1518. Other significant events such as births or deaths of children or deaths of siblings are not known. In Andorfer’s professional life, no special occurrence is documented for 1517.
In speculating about the significance of the growth or removal of Andorfer’s beard, the flexibility of beard symbolism should be kept in mind. For example, it is thought that Duke Georg of Saxony (r. 1500–39) let his beard grow to chest length as a sign of grief over his wife’s death. Yet it has also been established that Bonifacius Amerbach of Basel, whom Hans Holbein the Younger portrayed bearded in a 1519 portrait (Kunstmuseum Basel), planned to commission a clean-shaven pendant expressly to show his renouncement of worldly vanities after the deaths of several family members. Without knowledge of what occasioned the Andorfer portraits and how they were displayed, the interpretation of their differences remains problematic. The idea that the two portraits were meant primarily to document a change in appearance rests on the assumption of side-by-side display, which was not necessarily originally the case, especially given the verbatim redundancy of the inscriptions. Although the works share a common provenance from the Toggenburg collection and must have been together at least by the time Andorfer’s name was added to the bottom right of both (long ago, given the apparent age of the additions), it is still conceivable, for example, that Andorfer intended one portrait for home and the other for an office of the mining administration or some other location.
Technical differences may help to clarify the chronology of these portraits. Although surface abrasion has compromised the appearance of the Museum’s portrait, condition does not fully account for disparities between the two. On close inspection, the clean-shaven likeness displays defter, more refined handling. Infrared reflectography (see fig. 1 above) revealed only minimal underdrawing in both portraits. The Met's example, however, has ruled lines along all four edges: a single line at the right, double lines at the left and top, and double lines that converge into a single line at the bottom. They lie within the edges of the painted area and thus appear not have been used to establish its limits. It is possible that these lines, which are not present on the privately owned portrait, served to align a pattern used to transfer the design to the panel. An overlay of tracings made from both portraits shows a near-exact correspondence in the facial features, suggesting use of a common model or transfer of the design from one painting to the other.
Given the higher-quality execution of the clean-shaven likeness and the presence of underlying lines on the bearded version possibly used to position a pattern, it seems most likely that the former is the primary version and that it served as the model for the bearded version. The more summary, evidently more rapid, technique of the bearded likeness may have been determined by a lower price paid for its commission, which could also explain the choice of a plain black costume instead of the more elaborate black, red, brown, and gray of the other. That both versions issued from Hans Maler’s workshop is without doubt. Despite their differences, they share a closely comparable style and both are coated on the reverse with a dark brownish red found on other works by the painter (see Technical Notes). However, the question of whether the Museum’s portrait was completed by Maler using a modified technique for a secondary version or by a less-skilled workshop assistant must remain open pending further technical studies of the artist’s oeuvre.
[2013; adapted from Waterman in Ainsworth and Waterman 2013]
The support is made of three boards of Swiss stone pine with the grain oriented vertically. The panel, which has been trimmed, has a slight convex lateral warp. X-radiography revealed that fine tow was attached to the panel along the joins before the white ground preparation was applied. The ground extends .6 centimeters beyond the image area to the edge of the panel on all sides. On the verso there are narrow bevels of uneven width around the perimeter, and as with other paintings by this artist, the verso has been coated with an opaque dark red paint. This paint runs slightly over the edge on all four sides. In 1936 a thick coat of wax was applied to the reverse.
In general the painting is in fair condition. Microscopic losses in the black and gray passages have brought the cloth of the sitter’s dark coat closer in tone to the fur trim. This optical lightening of the blacks, in combination with an increased transparency of the paint layer, has diminished contrast and form. Abrasion to the face has reduced the modeling and range of color. Only patches remain of the reddish brown paint used to model the eye sockets, and only a fractional amount of a finely divided blue pigment in the whites of the eyes can now be detected. With magnification, the catchlights in both eyes are visible: four tiny horizontal strokes of white paint, one in the white of each eye and one on the iris, both right of center. Restoration paint is lodged in many cracks and depressions in the blue background, where there are also residues of restoration along the unpainted perimeter. A strip of dark green restoration is visible along the top.
Examination with the stereomicroscope showed that the inscription dating the portrait and giving the age of the sitter is original and that the inscription identifying the sitter, although very old, was added later. Infrared reflectography (see fig. 1 above) revealed faint contours of a few facial features: the outline of the bridge and tip of the nose, the line where the lips meet, and possibly the crease of the upper eyelids and the folds of the ear. Underdrawn lines made with the aid of a straightedge frame the image, overlapping at the corners. The lateral lines are set closer to the center of the picture than those on the top and bottom, and a double line is visible on the left and top edges. The bottom line begins at the left as two separate lines that merge before reaching the right side.
[2013; adapted from German Paintings catalogue]
Inscription: Dated and inscribed (base): (left) DA MAN·1517·ZALT, / WAS ICH·48·IAR ALT (In 1517 I was 48); (right) SEBASTIA / -N / ANNDORFE- / ER
Count Toggenburg, Bolzano; Toggenburg family, Bolzano, later Frankfurt (sold to Drey); [A. S. Drey, Munich, ?by 1924–26; sold to Kleinberger]; [Kleinberger, Paris and New York, 1926; sold for $7,000 to Friedsam]; Michael Friedsam, New York (1926–d. 1931)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Michael Friedsam Collection," November 15, 1932–April 9, 1933, no catalogue.
Innsbruck. Tiroler Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum. "Nur Gesichter? Porträts der Renaissance," May 13–August 28, 2016, no. 17.
Max J. Friedländer in The Michael Friedsam Collection. [completed 1928], p. 148, notes that both this work and the companion piece, depicting the same sitter without a beard, come from the collection of Count Dockenburg [Toggenburg].
Bryson Burroughs and Harry B. Wehle. "The Michael Friedsam Collection: Paintings." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 27, section 2 (November 1932), pp. 30–31, no. 45, ill. p. 29.
Georg Habich. Die Deutschen Schaumünzen des XVI. Jahrhunderts. Vol. 2, part 1, Munich, 1932, p. XCVI, attributes this picture and the companion piece, referring to the two works as a diptych, to Conrad Faber.
Otto Benesch. "Beiträge zur Oberschwäbischen Bildnismalerei." Jahrbuch der preuszischen Kunstsammlungen 54 (1933), pp. 247–48, fig. 3 [reprinted in "Otto Benesch: Collected Writings," Eva Benesch, ed., vol. 3, New York, 1972, pp. 293, 444 n. 14, fig. 314], provides information on Andorfer's business as a smelter of precious metals; calls the MMA picture the earlier of the two portraits and finds that the sitter appears more prosperous and fashionable in the later version.
Charles L. Kuhn. A Catalogue of German Paintings of the Middle Ages and Renaissance in American Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1936, p. 64, no. 264, calls it a replica of the other version.
Harry B. Wehle and Margaretta Salinger. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Early Flemish, Dutch and German Paintings. New York, 1947, pp. 194–95, ill.
Erich Egg. "Schwazer Köpfe: Sebastian Andorfer (1469–1537)." Schwazer Heimatblätter 1, no. 9 (1953), p. 12, provides biographical information on the sitter.
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 62.
Heinz v[on]. Mackowitz. Der Maler Hans von Schwaz. Innsbruck, 1960, pp. 14, 53–54, 80, no. 10, fig. 35, points out that the two portraits of Andorfer provide the earliest secure date for Maler's artistic activity; suggests that Andorfer's name was added after the rest of the inscription; agrees that the MMA version came first.
Wolfgang Brücker. Conrad Faber von Creuznach. Frankfurt am Main, 1963, pp. 74–75, 199–200, no. 01, includes this picture and its companion piece among works erroneously attributed to Faber von Creuznach.
Alfred Stange. "Hans Maler: Neue Funde und Forschungen." Jahrbuch der Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen in Baden-Württemberg 3 (1966), pp. 83, 91, 96, 98, fig. 60, mentions the two portraits as Maler's earliest dated works.
Gert von der Osten and Horst Vey. Painting and Sculpture in Germany and the Netherlands 1500 to 1600. Baltimore, 1969, p. 217, refer to the two portraits as depicting "the antiquated yesterday and the stylish today".
Erich Egg. Kunst in Tirol. Vol. 2, Malerei und Kunsthandwerk. Innsbruck, 1972, p. 130.
Erich Egg. Kunst in Schwaz. Schwaz, 1974, p. 67, pl. 64.
The Northern Renaissance: 15th and 16th Century Netherlandish Paintings. Exh. cat., Colnaghi in association with Alexander Gallery. New York, 1983, p. 20, under no. 19, refers to it as a variant of the other version.
Erich Egg inStadtbuch Schwaz: Natur - Bergbau - Geschichte. Schwaz, 1986, ill. p. 135.
Erich Egg inSilber, Erz und Weisses Gold: Bergbau in Tirol. Exh. cat., Franziskanerkloster und Silberbergwerk. Schwaz, 1990, ill. p. 135.
Isolde Lübbeke. Early German Painting, 1350–1550: The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. London, 1991, p. 412, mentions it as Maler's earliest dated portrait.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 223, ill.
Kurt Löcher inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 20, New York, 1996, p. 191.
Ueli Dill. "Der Bart des Philosophen: Holbeins Amerbach-Porträt - neu gesehen im Lichte eines bisher nicht beachteten Epigramms." Hans Holbein der Jüngere (published in: Zeitschrift für Schweizerische Archäologie und Kunstgeschichte). Vol. 55, nos. 2–4, 1998, p. 259 n. 84.
Erich Egg. Kunst in Schwaz: Architektur, Bildhauerei, Malerei, Kunsthandwerk, Fotografie. rev. ed. Schwaz, 2001, p. 118, ill.
Annette Kranz. Christoph Amberger—Bildnismaler zu Augsburg: Städtische Eliten im Spiegel ihrer Porträts. Regensburg, 2004, pp. 236, 250–51 n. 83, p. 274 n. 179.
Jochen Sander. Hans Holbein d. J.: Tafelmaler in Basel, 1515–1532. Munich, 2005, pp. 125–26, 142 nn. 41–42, fig. 80, suggests the two pictures as precedents for Holbein's 1519 portrait of the bearded Bonifacius Amerbach (Kunstmuseum Basel) and his planned but unexecuted pendant of the sitter clean-shaven.
Peter Klein. Letter to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. May 2, 2006, writes that the panel is composed of three stone pine boards, and that dating by dendrochronological analysis is not possible.
Stefan Krause. "Die Porträts von Hans Maler—Studien zum frühneuzeitlichen Standesporträt." PhD diss., Universität Wien, 2008, pp. 8, 14, 67–68, 88–89, 101, 105, 141, no. 2, ill. p. 206, wonders if the repetition of this portrait with the sitter's face clean-shaven [see Notes] might be related to the death in April of 1518 of Andorfer's second wife, Anna, several months after the completion of the two portraits.
Stefan Krause. "Die Porträts von Hans Maler—Der Schwazer Silberrausch der Frühen Neuzeit und seine Akteure." Münchner Jahrbuch der bildenden Kunst 63 (2012), pp. 89–90, 93 n. 26, p. 102 n. 212, fig. 30.
Joshua P. Waterman in Maryan W. Ainsworth and Joshua P. Waterman. German Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1350–1600. New Haven, 2013, pp. 177–80, 310, no. 42, ill. (color) and figs. 151–52 (x-radiograph and infrared reflectogram).
Stefan Krause inNur Gesichter? Porträts der Renaissance. Exh. cat., Tiroler Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum. [Innsbruck], 2016, pp. 160, 254, no. 17, ill. p. 151 (color).
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Hans Holbein the Younger (German, Augsburg 1497/98–1543 London)
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