Ulrich Varnbüler (1474-1544) was Imperial Councillor and Chancellor to Archduke Ferdinand I, King of Bohemia and Hungary. He became a close friend of both Dürer and Willibald Pirckheimer in about 1515. In 1519 Varnbüler issued a translation of Erasmus's tract Dulce bellum inexperto and in 1522, the year of Dürer's woodcut, Pirckheimer dedicated a Latin translation of Lucian's dialogue Navis sue vota to Varnbüler. Dürer's dedication on the present woodcut, reads 'Albrecht Dürer of Nuremberg wishes to make known to posterity and to honour by this likeness his dearest friend Ulrich, surnamed Varnbüler, confidential and principal secretary to the Imperial Roman Government'. Dürer's preparatory charcoal drawing for the woodcut is in the Albertina, Vienna (W. 908).
No contemporary chiaroscuro impressions of the woodcut are recorded. As part of a Dürer 'renaissance' in the Netherlands in the late 16th Century, Hendrik Hondius issued impressions of the line block around 1600. The block then passed to Willem Janssen (Blaeu), who cut two additional blocks and printed chiaroscuro impressions sometime after 1620.
Strauss records eleven chiaroscuro impressions of this woodcut in museum collections.