An image of this sort might generally be found in a print or stained glass roundel, but the small scale and decorative colouration are also reminiscent of designs for medals, or for works of art such as enameled badges and hatpins, such as those by Hans Holbein and his circle. The attribution also poses challenges. More or less the only reference to an artist by the name of Hans Bresanck is to be found in A chronological series of engravers from the invention of the art to the beginning of the Present Century, published by J. Archdeacon in Oxford in 1770, which records 'Hans Bresanck' as the engraver responsible for a set of prints of Christ and the Apostles, published around 1620, long after this drawing was made. Le Blanc, for his part, thought that no such artist actually existed, and that the name (which he gave as 'Hans Bresang') was nothing more than a corruption of Hans Baldung.
An important clue to the dating of the drawing is provided by the coat of arms in the centre of the composition, which is that of Ernst, Herzog von Bayern (1500-1560), youngest son of Albrecht, Duke of Bavaria by his wife the Archduchess Kunigunde of Austria. Ernst was Bishop of Passau from 1517 until 1540, and thereafter Archbishop of Salzburg until 1554; from the arms, the drawing can be dated to the latter period.1 Among the artists working in South Germany and Austria between 1540 and 1555, perhaps the closest parallels are to be found in the drawings of Christoph Amberger, but the similarities are still not quite close enough to propose that this drawing is also by that artist.
The distinctive corner tabs and numbering on the reverse of the drawing show that it was once one of the relatively few northern European drawings in the celebrated Sagredo collection, which contained more than one thousand drawings, chiefly Venetian, assembled into several large albums. (The O on the back of this drawing stands for Oltremontano, the Sagredo designation for foreign artists.) The origins of the collection would appear to lie with Doge Nicolò Sagredo who acquired a large number of drawings from the Bassano studio in 1651. His collection passed to his brother Stefano and then to his son Zaccaria who added greatly to the collection, especially by his acquisition of the Caliari family collection. The collection seems to have begun to be dispersed in the early 19th century and a large portion was sold in Lyon in 1919. In 1966, one hundred drawings from the collection were owned by Hubert Marignane. Twenty drawings, of various schools, were dispersed at the 1991 Sotheby's sale (see Provenance, lots 85-104, with introduction).
1. Siebmacher's Wappenbuch, Nürnberg 1857, vol. I, Abth. 5, pl. 43
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