Lot 204
  • 204

Hans von Aachen

70,000 - 90,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Hans von Aachen
  • Self-Portrait with a glass of wine
  • oil on canvas


Prague, Prague Castle Gallery, Gods and mortals: works by the court artists of Emperor Rudolf II from private collections, 16 February–31 July 2012.


The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, simonparkes@msn.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This painting should be reexamined by a restorer. The restorations in the lower right and in the glass of wine are weak and can easily be improved. The left, right and top edge have been extended slightly. The coat and face of the figure are in reasonable condition. His collar is almost completely repainted. There are restorations on the left side, upper left and right side in the background. The painting should be returned to its original scale by removing the additions. It should also be cleaned and retouched properly.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

Hans von Aachen enjoyed great success as an artist in residence at the Prague court of Rudolf II. Artists of all type, but especially painters, received immense support and adulation from Rudolf, a fact perfectly communicated in the Emperor's letter of 27 April 1595, which officially proclaimed Rudolf's elevation of the status of painting, "Because their art and mastery is very different from other handicrafts... it shall, from the date of this letter...no longer be regarded or described as a craft by anybody, but rather shall be termed altogether the art of painting"

It is within this cultural and political context that this recently discovered Self Portrait may be understood. There are a plethora of examples of Rudolfian artists having their portraits done by fellow artists, as well as executing clear self portraits during their tenures in the court; Bartholomeus Spranger, for example, completed a an early bust length self portrait, circa 1580-5 (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna), which follows a similar compositional type as the present work.2 From the illustrious group of artists who worked in the Rudolfine court, Hans von Aachen emerged as the artist who most fully embraced the self-portrait as a means of artistic expression. His earliest self portrait, circa 1574 (Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne), is a rather conventional image, and shows the artist in traditional portrait pose, only slightly turned and facing head-on at the viewer. A later example from circa 1586, Self Portait with 'Donna venusta, illustrates von Aachens developed confidence within the genre, almost certainly bolstered by the artistic freedom afforded him in the Rudolfian court. In that work he displays himself as a boisterous laughing singer accompanied by an elegant woman. As in the present work, he raises a glass of wine, a confident and bold gesture, as if to call to attention his ease in life and heightened status in society. Yet another example of this emboldened style of self stylization can be seen in The Young Couple (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna), another self portrait which features a young woman, in this example his wife Regina, as the couple embrace lovingly. Von Aachen appears to be roughly the same age in both The Young Couple and the present self portrait. As he married Regina on 1 July 1596, this year may possibly serve as a terminus ante quem for the present picture. 

1. E. Fučìková (ed.), Rudolf II and Prague: The Court and the City, London 1997, p. 107.
2. Ibid, p. 113.