Having worked as a portrait painter his entire life it is rather curious that it was only late in his career that Dürer began to make portrait engravings, and the present work is his first such effort. He drew the young cardinal in 1518 on the occasion of the Imperial Diet in Augsburg, where Dürer was part of the Nuremberg delegation. He later presented him with two hundred impressions of the engraving and the plate itself, for which he received 200 gold guilders and some cloth in payment. Judging by the quality of this impression, the present example is quite likely to have come from the original edition Dürer printed for the cardinal by Dürer himself.
Dürer's acquaintance with the cardinal proved useful only a year later when, following the Coronation of Charles V, the cardinal, in his role as the chancellor of the Empire, approved the renewal of Dürer's Imperial pension. The lower inscription reads: This is how he had his eyes, cheeks and mouth in the 29th year of his life 1519. This quotation from Virgil rather unflatteringly draws attention to his somewhat fleshy features.