Lot 7
  • 7

LUCAS CRANACH THE ELDER | Portrait of a man with a spotted fur collar

1,500,000 - 2,000,000 GBP
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  • Lucas Cranach the Younger
  • Portrait of a man with a spotted fur collar
  • inscribed upper right: BETALET ALL; charged upper left with the coat of arms of the Agicourt[?] family
  • oil on oak panel
  • 48.3 x 36.5 cm.; 19 x 14⅜ in.


William Holman Hunt (1827–1910), Draycott House, Fulham and later Sonning-on-Thames, Berkshire; His widow, Edith Holman Hunt (1846–1931), London;

Possibly with Theodor Fischer (1878–1957), Lucerne (according to Förster 1931 below);

With Julius Böhler, Munich, by 1914;

From whom purchased on 25 November 1915 by Dr Richard von Schnitzler (1855–1938), Cologne;

Possibly acquired directly from the above by the father of the present owner;

Thence by descent.


London, Royal Academy, Old Masters, deceased masters of the British School & Edwin Austin Abbey R.A., 1912, no. 32 (as German School); Cologne, Kölnischer Kunstverein, 1922, no. 25;

Frankfurt am Main, Galerie Hackenbroch, Ausstellung Altdeutscher Bildnisse, 1928, no. 13 (as Lucas Cranach the Elder);

Basel, Kunstmuseum, Lukas Cranach: Gemälde, Zeichnungen, Druckgraphik, 15 June – 8 September 1974, no. 166;

Hamburg, Bucerius Kunst Forum, Lucas Cranach, Glaube, Mythologie und Moderne, 6 April – 13 July 2003, no. 1.


G. Swarzenski, ‘Der wiedergefundene Torgauer Fürstenaltar von L. Cranach im Städelischen Kunstinstitut zu Frankfurt am Main’, in Rheinlande, vol. 7, 1907, pp. 1–6; M. J. Friedländer, 'Ein neuerworbenes Porträt Cranachs’, in Amtliche Berichte aus den Königlichen Kunstsammlungen, vol. 37, April 1916, p. 31;

W. Bombe, 'Die Sammlung Dr. Richard von Schnitzler in Cöln', in Der Cicerone, IX, 1917, pp. 370, 372, reproduced;

K. Scheffler, Bildnisse aus drei Jahrhunderten der alten deutschen und niederlänischen Malerei, Königstein I. Taunus 1916, plate 14;

O.H. Förster, Die Sammlung Dr. Richard Schnitzler, Cologne 1931, p. 24, no. 15, reproduced plate XI;

M.J. Friedländer and J. Rosenberg, Die Gemälde von Lucas Cranach, Berlin 1932, cat. no. 51;

Z. M. Hackenbroch, Ausstellung Altdeutscher Bildnisse, Frankfurt 1928, p. 11, cat. no. 13, reproduced pl. 12;

M.J. Friedländer and J. Rosenberg, The Paintings of Lucas Cranach, London 1978, p. 81, no. 58;

D. Koepplin and T. Falk, Lukas Cranach: Gemälde, Zeichnungen, Druckgraphik, exhibition catalogue, Basel–Stuttgart 1976, vol. I, p. 265, cat. no. 166, reproduced colour plate 10;

D. Holman Hunt, 'The Holman Hunt Collection: a personal recollection' in L. Parris (ed) Pre-Raphaelite Papers, London 1984, pp. 209, 259 n. 5, reproduced plate 96;

W. Schade, Lucas Cranach, Glaube, Mythologie und Moderne, exhibition catalogue, Hamburg 2003, p. 166, cat. no. 1, reproduced in colour p. 24.


The following condition report is provided by Sarah Walden who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's: Lucas Cranach the Elder. Portrait of a Man with a Spotted Fur Collar. Inscibed upper right Betalet All. This painting is on an oak panel, which has been thinned, apparently marouflaged, and cradled in the middle of the last century, with a narrow added border along the sides and the top edges. The reduction of the hand, or fingers, at the base edge suggests that this has been reduced at some time. The remarkably good condition overall suggests that the panel had remained in peaceful atmospheric surroundings throughout its early history. The fine grain of the wood has produced a quite accentuated minute craquelure, which has existed over a long period, with fine retouchings, both older and more recent, visible under ultra violet light across the background. Older retouching appears to have been concentrated along the top edge and down the left side in particular. Minute retouching can also be found in the blacks of the hat as well as in the face itself, with older retouching also visible in the lower black drapery. The fur collar has minimal sign of retouching and is finely intact overall. The delicate texture and craquelure of the flesh painting is completely intact in the hand and in much of the head, with faint traces of beard, and much minute detail of the features well preserved. 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

This is a rare early portrait by Lucas Cranach, and was probably painted before the end of the first decade of the sixteenth century. The use of a panel made from Baltic oak is highly unusual in Cranach’s œuvre, and suggests that this likeness may have been painted around the time of Cranach’s visit to the Netherlands in 1508. It is one of a very small group of pictures which can perhaps be associated with this important moment in Cranach’s career. The well-attired young man’s family motto, which is written in Dutch rather than German, would seem to support such an assertion, although his precise identity has never been determined. Cranach visited the Netherlands in the summer of 1508. His countryman and apologist, the humanist Christoph Scheurl (1481–1542) suggested that his patron, the Elector Frederick the Wise of Saxony, was keen to show off the brilliance of his own court painter in this ‘the land of painters’.1 In the Low Countries he was the guest of the Emperor’s daughter, Margaret of Austria, a keen patron of the arts and Regent of the Netherlands, and together with his companion, the painter ‘Christoph from Munich’ benefited from several commissions from her, all now lost. Cranach certainly met the new Emperor Maximillian on his visit, and painted a portrait (now lost) of his eight year old grandson, the Archduke and future Emperor Charles V. Many years later in 1547, the two men met again in Wittenberg, and were able to recall their first meeting. No works that can certainly be associated with Cranach’s trip survive but important evidence for it can be found in the altarpiece of The Holy Kinship painted after his return in 1509 and today in the Städel Museum in Frankfurt. Both his choice and treatment of the subject suggests that Cranach may have seen Quentin Massys’s altar of the same subject and date (Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels) in his studio in Antwerp.

Although there are several extant works by Cranach from 1509, the year he returned to Wittenberg from the Netherlands, there are only a very few portraits which, like the present lot, can be considered as possibly having been executed while he was abroad. As with this panel, a very important factor is the use of an oak support, for its infrequency in Cranach’s work presents a strong argument for a work upon it having been painted in the Netherlands. Such seems to be the case, for example, with the Portrait of a man with a rosary in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and its pendant, the Portrait of a woman formerly in the Abegg collection and now in the Kunsthaus in Zurich (figs. 1 and 2).2 Like the present portrait, both are painted in tempera and oil on oak panels and were both originally of similar size.3 The presence of the sitters’ name[?] saints Peter and Catherine on their versos suggests that the pair were originally painted as the wings of a triptych, no doubt flanking a religious subject, and therefore constitute donor portraits. Not only does this pictorial form of the triptych come from the Netherlands, but the young woman also wears a hood typical of the region, so there is good reason to suppose that they may have been painted there. The New York portrait moreover shares a number of stylistic parallels with the present panel, notably, for example, in the way Cranach has devoted care and attention to the texture of their fur collars, and to the manner in which both men grasp the hems. The freshness of the facture and the directness of the likeness in both paintings strongly suggest that they are early works.

The case for this portrait having been painted in the Low Countries is further strengthened by the symbol of a clock face and the motto ‘BETALET ALL’, which appears in the upper right-hand corner. The motto is in Dutch rather than German, and taken together records the Netherlandish epigram ‘een uur betaelt het all’, meaning roughly that ‘an hour (or Time itself) redeems all’, and that all our earthly actions, both good and bad, will come to the same final reckoning.4 Despite this, the precise identity of the sitter remains frustratingly elusive. The coat of arms which appears upper left, has never been satisfactorily identified. Schade cites Lücke’s opinion that these are not aristocratic arms, and his tentative suggestion that they may be those of the Argicourt family of Picardy. The colours of Sable (black) and Or (yellow) are also those of the Bauern family of Strasbourg, but lack the crest shown here.

Taking all these factors together, Schade has argued for a dating around 1508 for this panel, and suggested that, together with the New York and Zurich donor portraits, they represent the most likely works to have been painted by Cranach in the Netherlands that same year. However, Friedländer and Rosenberg and later Koepplin all cautioned against accepting an oak support as certain proof of a specific Netherlandish dating, for Cranach did occasionally use this support for other works. One such example is the Salome with the head of Saint John the Baptist of around 1510 now in the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga in Lisbon.5 These scholars thus extended a possible period of execution for the panel to 1508–12, on the basis of the painting’s stylistic parallels with portraits painted after Cranach’s return to Germany. The use of the oak support nevertheless remains important. While it is possible, for example, to point to parallels with other comparable portraits by Cranach painted in 1509, which must have been painted after his return to Germany, it seems that in these he always returned to the use of his preferred limewood panels. This is true, for example, of the celebrated portraits of The Elector John the Steadfast and his son John Frederick in the National Gallery in London (the former, fig. 3),6 and that of his friend the humanist doctor Christoph Scheurl in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg (fig. 4).7 A further portrait from this period, that of Georg Spalatin (Museum für bildenden Kunst, Leipzig) also painted in 1509 is now too damaged for meaningful comparison. The last portrait in this group, which comes close to the present work in the directness of its portrayal and the vigour of its brushwork is that of the Margrave of Brandeburg-Ansbach sold in these Rooms 13 December 2001 (fig. 5), but this too is on limewood and cannot be earlier than 1511 when the sitter became Grand Master of Teutonic Order, whose ceremonial cloak he wears. Koepplin also draws attention to a portrait of Guillaume de Cröy, Sieur de Chièvres in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, which may possibly represent a Netherlandish copy after a lost original by Cranach.8


Note on Provenance

This painting first came to public attention at the Royal Academy exhibition of 1912. It was lent to the exhibition by Edith Holman Hunt (1846–1931; fig. 6), the second wife of the famous English Pre-Raphaelite painter William Holman Hunt (1827–1910; fig. 7). This may be the picture mentioned in a letter from Holman Hunt to his fellow painter Ford Madox Brown, dated 31 July 1862, in which he describes the purchase of a ‘magnificent Holbein’.9 This is, in fact, the earliest documented purchase of an Old Master painting by Holman Hunt. Holman Hunt eventually amassed a large collection of works of art, notably paintings – including pictures by or attributed to Velazquez, Cariani and Tintoretto – tapestries, china, maiolica and bas-reliefs, many of which were acquired on his travels in Italy in 1868.10 Some twenty years earlier, in September 1848, Holman Hunt, along with Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Everett Millais had formed the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, which sought to revitalise art by reviving the spiritual qualities of art before the Renaissance and by emphasising a detailed observation of the natural world. Holman Hunt’s own work employed a sort of symbolic realism, designed to give form to Christian ideals, and proved enormously popular with the British public. It may very well have been the non-Raphaelesque qualities of early German portraiture which attracted him to this particular painting. Edith was in fact the sister of his first wife Fanny, who Holman Hunt had married in 1875 in the face of fierce opposition from the Waugh family and in defiance of English law. By the time of his death the attribution to Holbein had been downgraded to ‘German School’, and the panel’s true authorship remained unrecognised. Not long after the Royal Academy exhibition Edith seems to have sold the panel for a ‘quite ridiculous sum’ according to her grand-daughter Diana.11 Within two years it was with the famous Munich-based dealer Julius Böhler, who had no doubt recognised its true author, to whom it has remained securely attributed ever since.



1 Oratio attingens litterarum preastantium nec non laudem ecclesiae collegiatae omnium Sanctorum Vittenburgensis, habita in eadem ecclesia decimo sexton kalendas Decembris Anno domini 1508…, Leipzig 1509. Scheurl was a jurist and professor at the University of Wittenberg. His portrait was painted by Cranach in 1509. He also records how Cranach astonished the court by drawing the Emperor’s picture on the wall from memory.

2 Exhibited London, Royal Academy of Arts and Frankfurt am Main, Städel Museum, Cranach, 2007–08, nos 12 and 13.

3 Dendrochronoloical analysis of the New York panel has revealed an earliest possible fabrication date of 1502. The panel in Zurich has been reduced on its bottom edge by approximately 5 cm.

4 The same epigram recurs, for example, in Isaak Ledeboer’s engraving after Frans Hals’s portrait of Pieter van den Broecke of 1633, today at Kenwood House, London.

5 Friedländer and Rosenberg 1979, p. 75, no. 33.

6 Friedländer and Rosenberg 1979, p. 71, no. 19.

7 Friedländer and Rosenberg 1979, p. 72, no. 23.

8 D. Koepplin, ‘Ein Bildnis und Cranach’s Reise in die Niederlände’, in Neue Werke von Lukas Cranach und ein altes Bild einer polnischen Schlacht – von Hans Krell?, Basel 2003, pp. 57–59, reproduced fig. 32.

9 J. Bronckhurst, William Holman Hunt. A catalogue raisonné, New Haven and London 2006, vol. I, p. 45.

10 Bronckhurst 2006, p. 47.

11 Holman Hunt 1984, p. 209. The author (who refers to the painting as a Cranach) dates the sale of the picture ‘around 1911–12’, so presumably very shortly after the Royal Academy exhibition. Förster (1931) lists ‘Fischer, Luzern’ as owning the picture before Holman Hunt, which is not likely to be correct, but his widow Edith may perhaps have sold it to Fischer.