Hans Baldung, called Hans Baldung Grien (?Schwäbisch Gmünd 1484/5-1545 Strasbourg)
Hans Baldung, called Hans Baldung Grien (?Schwäbisch Gmünd 1484/5-1545 Strasbourg)

Portrait of a young man, bust-length, with his head turned to the left

Hans Baldung, called Hans Baldung Grien (?Schwäbisch Gmünd 1484/5-1545 Strasbourg)
Portrait of a young man, bust-length, with his head turned to the left
signed with the artist's monogram 'HB' and dated '1509' (upper right)
oil on panel
18½ x 13 3/8 in. (46.5 x 33.7 cm.)
A. Strölin, Paris and Lausanne, by 1923.
with the art market, Switzerland, 1924.
Fritz B. Gutmann, Berlin and subsequently Heemstede, The Netherlands, 1924; involuntary sale, 10 March 1941 to
Karl Haberstock, Berlin.
with the art market, London, 1948.
with the art market, New York, 1953.
with Rudolf Heinemann, New York, 1954.
Rutgers University Art Gallery, New Brunswick, to whom gifted in 1959, and Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, by 1966.
Restituted to the Heirs of Fritz Gutmann, 2010.
M.J. Friedländer, review of H. Curjel, Hans Baldung Grien, Munich, 1923, in Jahrbuch für Kunstwissenschaft, 1924, I, p.74.
W. Hugelshofer, 'Nachträge zu Baldung', Oberrheinische Kunst, V, 1932, pp. 206-7, fig. 6.
C. Koch, Reisetaschenbcher, unpublished MS, Berlin, Staatliche Gemldegalerie Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, notebook 3, 1924.
L. Baldass, 'Hans Baldungs Frhwerke', Pantheon, II, 1928, p. 399.
D. Hannema, Meesterwerken uit vier Eeuwen 1400-1800, exhibition catalogue, Rotterdam, 1938, no. 21, fig. 30.
O. Fischer, Hans Baldung Grien, Munich, 1939, p. 39.
H. Perseke, Hans Baldungs Schaffen in Freiburg, Freiburg, 1941, p. 77, fig. 10.
G. van der Osten, Hans Baldung Grien, Berlin, 1983, p. 54, no. 7, pl. 20.
Rotterdam, Museum Bojmans, Meesterwerken uit vier Eeuwen 1400-1800, 25 June-15 October 1938, no. 21.

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Lot Essay

This likeness is one of the earliest known portraits by Hans Baldung Grien, painted at a key juncture in the artist's career, when, after his first major professional successes, he sought to establish himself as the leading painter in Strassburg. One of the great generation of German artists that emerged under the influence and tutelage of Albrecht Drer - with Georg Pencz, the Beham brothers, Hans Schaüfelein, Hans Leu II and, slightly later, Hans von Kulmbach - Baldung came from a very different social background to that of most of his fellow craftsmen, having been born into a well-established family of lawyers, doctors and academics, one of whom (Hieronymus Baldung) was the personal physician of Emperor Maximilian I. Although it is not known who Baldung's first teacher was, by the time he was 18 in 1503 he was sufficiently skilled to enter Dürer's workshop in Nuremburg, and he is believed to have produced one of the great masterpieces of German draughtsmanship and self-portraiture of any school, the celebrated and haunting Self-Portrait on grey-green paper in Basel (Kunstmuseum) just before this, in circa 1502.

It was in Dürer's workshop that the young Baldung earned the nickname Grien ('Green'), presumably out of a preference for this color in his painting. Baldung progressed quickly, becoming one of the most-trusted members of Dürer's studio, to the extent that when Dürer departed on the second of his famous trips to Venice (1505-1507), he left Baldung in charge of the workshop. On Dürer's return, Baldung left Nuremburg for Halle, where he received his first major commissions as an independent master painter. These were the Epiphany or Adoration of the Magi altarpiece (Berlin, Gemäldegalerie) and the extremely accomplished Saint Sebastian altarpiece (signed and dated 1507; Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum), both much prized by Cranach's great patron, Cardinal Albrecht von Brandenburg. The Saint Sebastian altarpiece includes a self-portrait dressed in green which relates closely both to the Basel drawing and to the present work, which would seem to be one of the first pictures Baldung painted upon establishing himself in Strassburg in 1509, where he was to settle, marry, open a workshop and pursue his career.

This portrait was probably painted on Baldung's arrival in Strassburg, and will have been an important move in establishing Baldung's reputation in that city, serving as a demonstration of his skills and as an advertisement for future portrait commissions. It is one of only two portraits dated to the transitional year 1509, the other being the Portrait of a young man with a rosary in the Royal Collection (London, Hampton Court). The sitter in the present portrait, who cannot have been much older than the artist, then in his mid-twenties, is depicted with a delicate attention to the delineation of the features and an evocation of a quiet self-confidence and restrained elegance. The black-on-white lacing of the sitter's doublet is a visual element that appealed to the artist, and recurs in the masterful Portrait of a man in front of a rose hedge in the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the figure of Saint Sebastian in an altar wing in Dessau, Staatliche Galerie, while the treatment of the eyelids recalls that in both of the Halle commissions. The motif of the hat drawn low over one eye appears in the Basel drawing as well as in the Halle self-portrait, which also shares with the present work a three-quarter turn of the head and a feathery treatment of the eyebrows and sideburns; this and other similarities suggest that the possibility that the present picture was also painted as a self-portrait should perhaps be re-examined.


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