Peter Gertner (whose signature was the monogram 'pg' with a gardener's spade, hence his occasional sobriquet, 'The Master P.G.') received citizenship of Nuremberg on 12 January 1521, where he is thought to have studied under Wolf Traut. Like Traut, he used an austere graphic line and dry, bright colors. While in Nuremberg he painted a Portrait of a Man (1523; Kurpfälzisches Museum, Heidelberg; stolen 1974) and a Portrait of Hans Geyer (1524; North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh). By 1527 he was working for Kasimir, Markgraf zu Brandenburg-Kulmbach, Burgrave of Nuremberg (1481-1527), and he later painted a memorial picture of the Margrave with his wife Susanna (untraced; a copy in the Protestant Pfarrkirche, Heilbronn).
Susanna then married Ottheinrich, the future Elector Palatine, in 1529 and Gertner went with her to the court of Neuburg an der Donau. A portrait of her (circa 1530; Schlossmuseum, Berchtesgaden) was followed by portraits of Ottheinrich and other members of the house of Wittelsbach (1531-9; mostly in Bayerisches National Museum, Munich) which took 'maister Peter, Hofmaller', as he was described in contemporary documents, to various German courts. His Portrait of Count Palatine Philip the Warlike (1530; Bayerisches National Museum and Bayerisches Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Munich) includes a view of Vienna during the Turkish siege. Gertner also painted religious works such as the Crucifixion (1537; Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore), but it is chiefly his court portraits that are fascinating for their precise rendition of clothes and jewelry.
These portraits, such as the present lot, were prepared by adding color to pen and ink drawings. Pictorially complete modelli, painted on parchment, they served the studio as a basis for producing replicas (see figs. 1 & 2 for comparable modelli by Gertner). The present work would appear to be a modello for a half-length portrait of Ottheinrich by Gertner dated 1537 in a Bavarian private collection (fig. 3). A similar modello of Ottheinrich's wife, Susanna von Pfalz, also by Peter Gertner is in the Pushkin Museum, Moscow (fig. 4; exhibited, Moscow, Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Five Centuries of European Drawings: The Former Collection of Frans Koenigs, 2 October 1995 - 21 January 1996, p. 143, no. 54, illustrated).
Ottheinrich van der Pfalz was born in 1502, orphaned by 1504, and ruled jointly in Neuburg with his brother Philipp (1503-48) beginning in the year 1522. He was initially a staunch opponent of Protestantism, but after being converted to the new religion in 1542, he established the Lutheran Church in Neuburg an der Donau. Through his extravagance, however, he had reached the verge of bankruptcy by 1544, and was forced to cede the administration of Neuburg to the estates before going into exile in Heidelberg and Weinheim. Ottheinrich was reinstated in 1552 and in 1556 succeeded Frederick II, Elector Palatine of the Rhine (ruled 1544-56), at which point he introduced Protestantism to the Palatinate.
From 1247 the town of Neuburg an der Donau belonged to the Wittelsbachs, and by 1502 it was the official residence of the junior Palatine branch, with Ottheinrich living there in 1522-44 and 1552-5. Beginning in 1530, Schloss Neuburg was rebuilt in the Renaissance style under the direction of Hans Knotz (fl. 1527-38). The chapel was completed in 1541 and decorated in 1543 by Hans Bocksberger I. The pictorial program, probably influenced by the work of the Nuremberg preacher Andreas Osiander (1498-1552), is one of the earliest examples of biblical decoration in a Protestant church. Knotz also built the Jagdschloss, a hunting-lodge at Grünau (begun 1530), which features murals by Jürg Breu and Hans Windberger (fl. 1555; d. 1571). Primarily depicting hunting and erotic themes, these murals are among the few examples of secular wall painting surviving from that time.
When in exile in Heidelberg in 1556, Ottheinrich started building the Ottheinrichsbau, one of the most prestigious residences in Germany. Heidelberg was the seat of the Electors Palatine from 1329, and its university, dating from 1386, was the second to be founded in the Holy Roman Empire after Prague. The ruined castle was an important source of inspiration for the German Romantic movement. The balanced façade of the Ottheinrichsbau demonstrates the influence of Sebastiano Serlio's architectural theories as well as contemporary editions of Vitruvius, and the Elector's humanist interests are illustrated by the allegorical and symbolic characteristics of the façade program, with figural ornamentation by Alexander Colin. A pleasure garden was laid out in Heidelberg as it had been in Neuburg an der Donau, with a variety of Mediterranean and exotic plants and fountains.
The Elector owned an extensive gallery of paintings and collected medals, engravings, astronomical instruments and armor, though during the years circa 1544-6 he concentrated on acquiring printed works and illustrated books. His library, later the Bibliotheca Palatina in Heidelberg, contained both earlier and contemporary works, devoted mainly to architectural theory, but also to astronomy, occult sciences, religion, history and geography. He made his library available to scholars and also enlarged that of the Heiliggeist foundation, which became an important center of learning, with the collegiate church of Heiliggeist serving as the university church as well.