- Hans Hoffmann, circa 1580
Hans Hoffmann, also a native of Nuremberg, was one of the most important masters of the “Dürer Renaissance.” He not only worked directly after Dürer’s paintings and drawings, but also created his own unique compositions from Dürer’s motifs. Hoffmann left Nuremberg in 1584 for Duke William V’s Court in Munich. In 1585, an invitation from Emperor Rudolf II led him to Prague, where he became the Imperial court painter, or Hofmaler. During his salaried tenure, he was not only commissioned to create works in the style of Dürer, but also possibly advised the Emperor on his own Dürer collection.1 As a leader of this artistic movement throughout his career, Hoffmann set a standard that influenced other Dürer followers active in Bavaria and Bohemia in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.
Dating to circa 1580, this striking Ecce Homo is a powerful example of the type of works that arose during this period. Indeed, the delicate highlighting Christ’s beard recalls the manner in which Dürer painted his hair in his Self Portrait with Fur Trimmed Robe (1500) in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich (Inv. no. 537). The present work also bears notable similarities to The Mocking of Christ, an oil on oak panel from1600 in the National Gallery of Prague (inv. no. DP4185) (fig. 1). Although the attribution of the Prague panel remains under discussion, recent research has supported an attribution to Hoffmann.2 Both paintings portray a crowded composition of Christ surrounded by a mass of attendants, soldiers, and lances, the latter of which recede deep into the background along the upper edge. In addition to the similar sensibility, handling, and coloring used by the artist in each panel, perhaps the most curious shared detail is the eye that peers through the crowd to the left of Christ’s head. Each work appears contemporaneous to Hans Hoffmann's lifetime, but scholars who have examined the present work either in person or from photographs agree that it is of finer quality than its related composition in Prague.
We are grateful to Dr. Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann for his assistance in cataloguing this lot.
1. See T.D. Kaufmann, The School of Prague, Painting at the Court of Rudolf II, Chicago 1988, p. 215.
2. ibid., p.216 and O. Kotková, German and Austrian Painting of the 14th-16th Centuries, The National Gallery of Prague, Prague 2007, p. 66.