Lot 13
  • 13

BERNHARD STRIGEL | A portrait of Johannes Cuspinian, with his second wife Agnes, and his sons from his first marriage Sebastian Felix and Nicolaus Christostomus

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Bernhard Strigel
  • A portrait of Johannes Cuspinian, with his second wife Agnes, and his sons from his first marriage Sebastian Felix and Nicolaus Christostomus
  • inscribed in Latin: on a painted tablet, upper centre: FILII COLITE DEVM/ DISCITE PRVDENCIA/ DILIGITE HONESTATE (Sons, respect [?] God/ Learn prudence/ Esteem honesty)inscribed above the head of Cuspinian: ZEBEDEVSinscribed above the head of his wife: SALOME VXOR .I. PACIFICA/ QVIA FILIOS PAC S GENVITinscribed above the head of his eldest son: JACOBVS MAIOR/ CHRISTO.COEVVSinscribed on the parapet to the right of the younger son:  IOANNES [...] E/ CHRIS [...] Ainscribed at length on the reverse (see below)
  • oil on limewood panel
  • 71 x 62 cm.; 28 x 24 1/2  in.


Johannes Cuspinian, 1520; Brought from Germany to England by Sir Robert Anstruther (d. 1645), and presented to
King Charles I of England, by circa 1639 (branded with his cypher on the reverse, and in Van der Doort's inventory as located in the Chair Room at Whitehall Palace, no. 1);

Whitehall Palace sale, no. 85, sold on 18 November 1651, for £3.0.0 to De Critz;

Probably Emanuel de Critz (1608–1665), London;

Edward Solly (1776–1844), Berlin;

Presumably sold by him with the remainder of his first collection to Kaiser Friedrich-Wilhelm III of Prussia  in 1821 for the intended Alte Nationalgalerie;

Königliche Museen (from 1904 Kaiser-Friedrich Museum), Schinkelbau, Berlin, from 1830 until 1913;

Graf Johann Nepomuk Wilczek, Burg Kreuzenstein, Lower Austria, from 1913;

Thence by descent, subsequently at Schloß Seebarn, Lower Austria, from 1922 until after 1964;

Bought by the present owner in 1989.


Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Kaiser-Ferdinand I, 1503–1564. Das Werden der Habsburger Monarchie, 15 April – 31 August 2003; Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, 31 May - 4 September 2011; Munich, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, 16 September 2011 - 15 January 2012, Dürer Cranach Holbein.  Die Entdeckung des Menschen:  Das deutsche Porträt um 1500, no. 160.


W. von Bode, `Bernhard Strigel, der sog. Meister der Sammlung Hirscher,' in Jahrbuch der Preuβischen Kunstsammlungen, II, 1881, pp. 54–61 (where the inscription on the reverse is given); L. Scheibler, `Verzeichnis der Werke Bernhard Strigels,' in Jahrbuch der Preuβischen Kunstsammlungen, vol. II, 1881, pp. 59–61;

J. Meyer, W. Bode, L. Scheibler, Königliche Museen zu Berlin. Beschreibendes Verzeichnis der Gemälde, Berlin 1883, pp. 446–48, no. 583 B;

J. Meyer, H. v Tschudi, W. Bode, Königliche Museen zu Berlin. Beschreibendes Verzeichnis der Gemälde, Berlin 1891, pp. 272–73, no. 583 B;

M.J. Friedländer, H. Mackowsky, Königliche Museen zu Berlin. Beschreibendes Verzeichnis der Gemälde, Berlin 1898, pp. 295–96, no. 583 B;

M.J. Friedländer, H. Posse, Königliche Museen zu Berlin. Beschreibendes Verzeichnis der Gemälde in Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum, Berlin 1904, pp. 375–77, no. 583 B;

M.J. Friedländer, H. Posse, W. Cohen, Königliche Museen zu Berlin. Beschreibendes Verzeichnis der Gemälde in Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum, Berlin 1904, pp. 382–83, no. 583 B;

F.X. Weizinger, Die Malerfamilie der "Strigel" in der ehemals freien Reichstadt Memmingen, Doctoral dissertation, Munich 1908, p. 1;

H. Posse (ed.), Die Gemäldegalerie des Kaiser-Friedrich-Museums, Berlin 1911, p. 46, no. 583 B, reproduced (and 1913 ed.);

D. von Hadeln, Königliche Museen zu Berlin. Beschreibendes Verzeichnis der Gemälde in Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum, Berlin 1912, pp. 422–23, no. 583 B;

L. von Baldaβ, `Die Bildnisse Kaiser Maximilians,' in Jahrbuch der Kunsthistorischen Sammlungen der Allerhöchsten Kaiserhauses, vol. 31, Vienna 1913, p. 273;

F.X. Weizinger, 'Die Malerfamilie der Strigel in der ehemals freien Reichsstadt Memmingen', in Festschrift des Münchener Altertumsvereins, Munich 1914, p. 144;

H. Ankwicz-von Kleehoven, 'Bernhard Strigel in Wien', in Zeitschrift fur Kunst und Kunsthandwerk, Vienna, 1916, pp. 281–82, 284, 299, 306–18, 320–21, reproduced pp. 311 and 315;

B. Lázár, `Bernhard Strigels Wladislausbildnis', in Studien zur Kunstgeschichte, Vienna 1917, p. 53 ff.;

A.L. Mayer, `Bernhard Strigel als Porträtmaler', in Pantheon, vol. III, 1929, p. 9;
J. Baum, in F. Thieme & U. Becker, Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler, vol. 32, Leipzig 1938, p. 188;

A. Stange, Deutsche Malerei der Gotik, vol. VIII, Munich and Berlin 1957, 8, p. 148 (& 1969 ed., pp. 135, 148–49);

H. Ankwicz-von Kleehoven, Der Wiener Humanist Johannes Cuspinian, Graz and Cologne 1959, pp. 33–34, 190–96, reproduced p. 200, figs c & d;

O. Millar, `Abraham van der Doort's Catalogue of the Collections of Charles I', in The Walpole Society, vol. 37 (1958–60), 1960, pp. 62, 223;

G. Otto, Bernhard Strigel, Munich–Berlin, 1964, pp. 74–75, 104–05, no. 77, reproduced fig. 144;

E. Rettich, Bernhard Strigel. Herkunft und Entfaltung seines Stils, Freiburg 1965, pp. 10–12, 52, 53, 93;

F. Herrmann, `Who was Solly,' Part 5, `The Sale of the Berlin Collection', in The Connoisseur, September 1967, p. 10;

H.Th. Musper, in Kindlers Malereilexikon, Zurich 1968, p. 435;

A. Stange and N. Lieb, Kritisches Verzeichnis der Deutschen Tafelbilder vor Dürer, Munich 1970, vol. II, pp. 216, 218, under nos 948, 958;

O. Millar, `The Inventories and Valuations of the King's Goods 1649–1651', in The Walpole Society, vol. 43, 1972, p. 303, no. 85;

F. Klauner, Die Gemäldegalerie des Kunsthistorischen Museums in Wien, Salzburg and Vienna 1978, p. 62 (and 1991 ed., p. 117);

M.J. Friedländer and J. Rosenberg, The Paintings of Lucas Cranach, London 1978, p. 67, under nos 6–7;

H.G. Thümmel, `Bernhard Strigel's Diptychon für Cuspinian', in Jahrbuch der Kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien, vol. 76, 1980, pp. 97–110, reproduced p. 106, figs 104 a and b;

E. Rettich, Bernd Strigel. Alte Meister in der Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Stuttgart 1992, p. 411;

M.Th. Musper, in Lexikon der Kunst, Leipzig 1994, p. 98;

I. Friesen, in M.S. Bird (ed.), Art and Interreligious Dialogue: Six Perspectives, Lanham 1995, pp. 12 and 14;

E. Rettich in J. Turner (ed.), The Dictionary of Art, London 1996, vol. 29, p. 773;

AS. Dülberg, Privatportraits, Berlin 1999, no. 333, reproduced plate 153;

K. Schütz, Kaiser Karl V. Macht und Ohnmacht Europas, exhibition catalogue, Vienna 2000, pp. 82, 113, 167, 335–36, no. II 20, reproduced p. 268;

K. Schütz, Kaiser Ferdinand I, 1503–1564. Das Werden der Habsburger Monarchie, exhibition catalogue, Vienna 2003, pp. 335f;

K. Schütz, `Kaiser Ferdinand und die malerei und Plastik seiner Zeit', in Vernissage, 11, no. 8, 2003, pp. 53 and 58;

K. Schütz, in S. Haag et al, Dürer Cranach Holbein.  die Entdeckung des Menschen: Das deutsche Porträt um 1500, exhibition catalogue, Vienna & Munich 2011, p. 9, 252, 335, no. 160, reproduced p. 251.


The following condition report is provided by Sarah Walden who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's: Bernhard Strigel. Portrait of Johannes Cuspinian, his Wife and Sons, with an inscription behind which incorporates Strigel's signature and the date October 1520. This painting is on a limewood panel. The panel has a faint curve with two joints, as well as several brief cracks, suggesting that the panel had moved fairly constantly in the past, before ultimately stabilising itself. History has rather dimmed the precision of the portraits themselves, painted by the left handed artist with magnification, as well as the effect of various restorations. Much of the blurring effect of this can be seen under ultra violet light, with retouching in the faces themselves. The drapery has sometimes survived well, for instance in the central red jacket of one son, and in the beautiful brocaded drapery of the arm holding him on the left as well as the white drapery. Overall the power of the painting transcends some fading and lies in its complex history. This report was not done under laboratory conditions
"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

Although he lived in Memmingen in Swabia all his life, Strigel was often in the service of the Imperial court, and he travelled to Vienna in 1515, summoned by the Emperor Maximilian to paint the Imperial family. He made a second visit in 1520, when he painted the present portrait group. The inscription on the reverse (fig. 4) gives us a great deal of information about the painter as well as his sitters, including his age of almost sixty, that he was a citizen of Memmingen, that he was left-handed and used a looking or magnifying glass, that he was ennobled and that he was the only painter commanded to paint the Emperor Maximilian I, and was his Court Painter. The inscription incorporates Strigel's signature and the date October 1520, and names the sitters. Since then it has been restored, and now reads as follows (note the third line now starts with the word REGIONIS, but the original may have read LEGIONIS, as Von Bode, who first transcribed it, thought):1

Johannes Cuspinianus doctor francus ex schweinfurt olim caes.
Aug. Maximiliani imp. a consilius et ad reges Hungariae Boemiae
ac Poloniae.  Vladislau Ludovicu et Sigismundu orator Caroliq
V. Caes. Consiliarius ac locu tenens in senatu Vienen. que Vulg
Anwaldu apellat. Ex prima coniuge Anna octo liberos genu[it]
e quibus hic Sebastianus Foelix annu agebat etatis quintudecimu
minor natu Nicolaus Chrisostomus duodecimu: genitor horu
duodequinquagesimu Hagnes nouerca quadragesimuprim[u].

In the year of human reparation [i.e. salvation] 1520 in the month of October when Leo X was Pope, while Charles V, son of Philip, king of Castille, Leon and Granada, was being created King of the Romans at Aachen and being designated Caesar, Bernhard Strigel, painter, citizen of Memmingen, noble, who alone having been ordered by edict to paint Caesar Maximilian, as once Apelles [painted] Alexander with his left hand, through a looking-glass, at nearly sixty years old he painted these likenesses at Vienna.

Johannes Cuspinian, a free doctor from Schweinfurt,
[was?] at one time by counsel to Caesar Augustus Maximilian the Emperor and to the kings of Hungary, Bohemia and Poland, Vladislaw[,] Ludovicus and Sigismund and orator to Charles V, his counsellor and representative in the Viennese senate, which is called Anwald in the local tongue. With his first wife Anna he brought forth eight children and of these this Sebastian Felix was fifteen years old, younger by birth Nicolaus Chrisostomus twelve years old, their father forty-eight, their stepmother Agnes forty-one.

The first panel has likenesses of Maximilian Caesar Augustus, of Mary the duchess of Burgundy, daughter of Duke Charles, of their son Philip of the kingdom of Castille, Charles V Emperor Augustus, Ferdinand the Infante of Spain, of archdukes and nephews of the Emperor and Ludovicus king of Hungary and Bohemia

As the inscription states, this portrait was painted by Strigel in Vienna in October 1520. It portrays the Viennese humanist Dr Johannes Cuspinianus at the age of 48, with his second wife Agnes, aged 41, and his sons by his first marriage, Sebastian Felix, aged fifteen, and Nikolaus Chrysostomus, aged twelve (they had eight children in all). Cuspinianus is a Latinization of his real name: Spiessheimer, from the name of the village of Spiessheim, where he was born in 1473. Spiessheim is in Franconia, near Schweinfurt, which is mentioned in the inscription on the reverse. He was an historian at the University of Vienna, where he was appointed Rector in 1500, and Professor in 1508. Cuspinian also received the position of chief librarian of the Imperial Library, and was superintendent of the archives of the imperial family. As curator of the university he exercised great influence on its development, although he was not able to prevent the decline caused by the political and religious disturbances of the second decade of the sixteenth century. He was on terms of friendship with the most noted humanists and scholars; the calling of his friend Celtes to Vienna is especially due to him. Celtes and he were the leading spirits of the literary association called the Sodalitas Litterarum Danubiana. He undertook diplomatic work for Maximilian I, including an embassy to Poland and Hungary in 1515, arranging a settlement between the Habsburg line and the Kings of Hungary and Bohemia (the Habsburg-Jagellonian marriage alliance), an event referred to in the inscription on the reverse of the panel. In the same year Maximilian appointed him as his chief councillor, and he was made Prefect of Vienna. He was later advisor to Maximilian's successor, Charles V. Of his publications, the best-known is his History of the Roman Emperors, prepared during the years 1512–22, and which probably influenced Maximilian, and strengthened the connections between them. For a long time, especially after the battle of Mohács, he busied himself with the Turkish question and printed both political and historical writings on the subject, the most important of which is his De Turcarum origine, religione et tyrannide. He died in 1529, one year after Strigel.

After the death of his first wife, Anna, Cuspinian married in 1514 Agnes, daughter of Bürgermeister Stainer of Wiener Neustadt, who was probably a widow. The commission to paint Cuspinian and his family may have come through the sitter's close connections at Court, but as Otto noted, his second wife Agnes had connections with Memmingen.2 Her sister Margaretha was married to the Memmingen nobleman Alexius Funk, who also served as Bürgermeister at Wiener Neustadt, but who is buried in the Martinskirche at Memmingen (Strigel had earlier painted the Epitaph for Funk's kinsman Hans Funk the Younger, now at Schaffhausen).

Cuspinianus and his first wife Anna had eighteen years earlier been portrayed by Lucas Cranach the Elder in pendant portraits, probably painted to celebrate their marriage in 1502 (for him, see fig. 1).3 They may well be Cranach's earliest surviving portraits, done early in his sojourn in Vienna, and were originally conceived as the two constituent parts of a diptych, since the horizon of the landscape background is contiguous.

In its format, dimensions and iconography, the present portrait is a conscious repetition of Strigel's Portrait of the Emperor Maximilian I and his Family (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum), painted five years earlier in 1515 (see fig. 2).4 The connection is specified in the inscription on the reverse, where the Vienna portrait is described as (`PRIMA TABVLA').  Both are on panels of similar size, and in both, the inscriptions on the front, painted in the same script above the heads of the sitters, evoke the names of members of the Holy Kinship, the family of Our Lord. The Vienna portrait group had a painted reverse, subsequently separated from it by splitting the panel, depicting the Holy Kinship (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna; see fig. 3).5 More recently the Holy Kinship has been considered to have been coeval with the present portrait group, to form a three-part house altar (see below). Cuspinianus probably devised the form of the Imperial portrait which among other things, celebrates the Habsburg-Jagellonian marriage, which Cuspinian's embassy had succeeded in realising. At the far right of the 1515 portrait is the youthful Ludwig of Hungary with a wreath of flowers signalling his impending marriage to the Habsburg Archduchess Maria (who is not included in the painting). For Cuspinianus to have commissioned his own family portrait as part of such a diptych in imitation of the Imperial one might imagine could have led to charges of lèse majesté. As Maximilian was labelled Cleophas, brother of Joseph, Mary of Burgundy Maria Cleophas, sister of the Virgin Mary, and Philip the Fair Jacobus Minor, so was Cuspinian inscribed as Zebedeus, and his second wife Agnes Stainer as Maria Salome, thus visibly uniting the Imperial and Cuspinian families. However, it is possible, as Friesen has suggested, that Maximilian presented the 1515 group portrait with the Holy Kinship on its reverse to Cuspinian in 1616 as a sign of Imperial favour, when the sending of it to Hungary was no longer possible. In any event by 1520 it was in Cuspinian's possession, and is described in the inscription on the reverse of the present panel; perhaps, as Friesen and others have suggested, incorporated into a three-part house-altar. If so the uniting of the three parts would have been a private, not a public affair.5

The circumstances of Strigel's visit to Vienna in 1520 are not known, but they must have been closely connected with the aftermath of Maximilian's death in 1519. His successor Charles V was elected Emperor on 28 June 1520, and the inscription on the reverse of this panel places this event in the past tense. We do not know if Strigel was summoned to Vienna by Charles V, or whether he felt it necessary to be there, as the previous Emperor's court painter, to establish his credentials with the new regime. If so, it may have been Cuspinian who brought him there, and his invitation arranged via Cuspinian's brother-in-law, Strigel's fellow Memminger Alexius Funk. Both Strigel and Cuspinian would have had strong grounds for wishing to re-establish their credentials with the new regime, and Strigel's portrait of Cuspinian and his family, painted this way and with the telling inscription on the reverse, and with inscriptions echoing the names of the family of Saint Anne, shows him as a man to be highly regarded by Emperors and as one enjoying Imperial favour, and Strigel in a similar light, and as their natural choice as portraitist. That at least would be the case if the Imperial portrait was still in the hands of the Emperor and not in the possession of Cuspinian himself. In any event Strigel seems to have been unsuccessful, since no portraits by him of Charles V or of his family are known. 

In all these important respects, the present picture and the Vienna Maximilian portrait group are unique in Strigel's œuvre: most of his other portraits, including all those made for the Habsburg Court, are of single sitters. Absent from the Vienna Maximilian portrait however, is any equivalent to the tablet in the present work bearing an exhortation to Cuspinian's sons to fear God, be prudent and honest.

Note on Provenance

Charles I's cypher is branded in the lower right corner of the reverse of the panel (see fig. 4). Only the upper part of the CR is visible, indicating the the panel was trimmed at the bottom. This painting is recorded without attribution in Van der Doort's manuscript inventory of Charles I's collection, which is kept at the British Museum (B.M., Add. MS. 10112, f. 4), under the heading: The Booke of the Kings : 40 : pictures./and : 12 : statues placed at this time in the./Kings. Chare roome in the privy Gallory/the perticulers whereof as followeth. Item 1. Inpris a picture of a family of 4. persons the/ father beeing a fatt Gentleman without a Beard-/ in a black Capp haveing his youngest sonn-/ standing afore him in his Armes and the other/ the elder likewise standing by, and the Mother by-/ every Picture is written, and alsoe at the back/ side is written all over. Annotated in the margin: Brought from-/ Jermany by sr/ Robt Anstrider and given to the kinge.7 The painting is also more briefly recorded in a manuscript kept at the Victoria and Albert Museum.According to Van der Doort's entry, this painting had been brought from Germany and given to King Charles I by Sr Robt Anstrider. This is presumably Sir Robert Anstruther of Anstruther (d. 1645), who had been Gentleman of the Bedchamber to King James, and became First Privy Councillor to King Charles I. He was also Ambassador to Germany and to Denmark, where he had been partly educated. At Whitehall Palace the Strigel was displayed, flanked by other Northern Renaissance paintings by Holbein, Dürer and others, as the centrepiece of the Chair Room, located in the Holbein Gate, which functioned as a second cabinet room or study.9 In the Whitehall Palace sale of Charles I's goods in 1651, the Strigel, still located at Whitehall Palace, was sold on 18 November to De Critz for £3.10 This would have been one of the sons of John de Critz (Antwerp 1551/52–1642 London), perhaps the portrait painter Emanuel de Critz (1608–1665), who bought other paintings and sculpture at the sale of Charles I's collection, and was probably a dealer.

Edward Solly (1776–1864) was an English merchant whose family firm specialized in the Baltic timber trade. In 1813 he moved to Berlin, and began to amass an enormous art collection, specializing in early Italian paintings and works by early Netherlandish painters, but he also owned works by Dutch masters such as Vermeer and De Hooch. Encouraged by King Friedrich Wilhelm's acquisition in 1815 of the rump of the Giustiniani collection for an intended public collection for Berlin, Solly hoped that his collection too might be bought by the Prussian State, and continued to accumulate works to further his aim, despite enduring a series of financial crises. Negotiations did not begin in earnest until 1820, and the following year the sale of some 3,000 works was concluded. Solly's collection, including the famous Solly Madonna by Raphael, formed the basis of what became the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum and is now the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Berlin. After concluding the sale in 1821 Solly returned to London and continued to acquire paintings, becoming the dealer that he had, in truth, always been.   

Johann Nepomuk Wilczek (1837–1922) travelled extensively in the 1860s, before becoming one of the chief sponsors of the Austro-Hungarian North Pole Expedition in 1872–74. He later became the founder of the Gesellschaft der Wiener Kunstfreunde, and between 1874 and 1906 he had Schloss Kreuzenstein reconstructed to house his art collection, much of which is still there, in a museum open to the public. 

1 Von Bode 1881.

2 Otto 1964.

3 They are in Winterthur, Sammlung Oskar Reinhart; see Friedländer 1978, reproduced figs 6 and 7.

4 Inv. 832. Oil on limewood panel, 72.8 x 60.4 cm. In Cuspinian's possession in 1520, and entered the Imperial collection around 1590.

5 Inv. 6411. Oil on limewood panel, 72.5 x 60 cm. In Cuspinian's collection in 1520, and entered the Imperial collection circa 1610–19.

6 See Friesen 1995, p. 13. She further suggests that all three panels could have dated from 1520, but given that Maximilian was by then dead, this seems rather far-fetched.

7 Millar 1960, p. 62.

8 Millar 1960, p. 223.

9 We are indebted to Dr Niko Munz for his help with the Charles I provenance of this work. It will be included in the Charles I database, which he is editing.

10 Millar 1972, p. 303.