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Portrait of a Man

Attributed to Schäufelein Hans Leonhard

(Nurenberg 1480-85 - Noerdlingen 1538-40)

In the view of some critics, this painting may have come from the estate of the younger Olimpia Aldobrandini, in whose inventory a similar work is listed. Traditionally attributed to Albrecht Dürer, whose style is no doubt evident here, the work has since been ascribed to his student Hans Schäuffelein. The panel dates to 1505, as indicated in its upper portion. It depicts a middle-aged man wearing a hat against a dark background. In the past, the figure was identified as the humanist Willibald Pirckheimer, a friend and correspondent of Dürer.

Object details

oil on panel
cm. 36 x 26

19th-century frame, 54 x 44.5 x 5 cm


(?) Rome, collection of Olimpia Aldobrandini senior, 1626 (Della Pergola 1959); Rome, collection of Olimpia Aldobrandini junior, 1682 (Della Pergola 1959); Rome, Borghese Collection, 1700 (Inv. 1700, room IX, no. 28; Della Pergola 1959); Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese 1833, p. 10. Purchased by Italian state, 1902.


top center: "*1505*"

  • 1961 Norimberga, Germanisches Nationalmuseum
Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1903 Luigi Bartolucci (pest control)
  • 1937 Carlo Matteucci
  • 2012 Paola Tollo


The provenance of this painting is still unknown. According to Paola della Pergola (1959), it may correspond to the panel mentioned in two inventories of the possessions of the Aldobrandini family. The first of these reads ‘a work with the head of an old man, by Alberto Duro, no. 271’ (Inv. Olimpia Aldobrandini senior 1626), while the second lists ‘a work with the head of an old man, by Alberto Duro, 1⅓ spans high, with a gilded frame, as in the said C. inventory on p. 221, no. 57’ (Inv. Olimpia Aldobrandini junior 1682). While this theory is no doubt fascinating, it remains uncertain, both because the man portrayed is by no means elderly and because the number ‘4’ in the painting is not referred to in either inventory entry.

Our first certain information regarding this portrait dates to 1700, when the panel was listed in the inventory of that year as a work by Albrecht Dürer. Subsequent compilers of inventories and critics, however, did not always accept this attribution. While the 1833 Inventario Fidecommissario listed the panel as a work by Holbein, Adolfo Venturi (1893) wrote of an imitator of the German master ‘of a much later period with respect to the date indicated in the painting’. Previously, Gustav F. Waagen (in Zahn 1869) had upheld the attribution to Dürer, proposing that the subject of the work was Willibald Pirckheimer, a friend and correspondent of the artist. This view was later accepted by Roberto Longhi (1928), who noted similarities with a portrait held at the Castle Gallery in Kroměříž (published in 1928 by Otto Benesch and also dated to 1505), and by Benesch himself (1934), who accepted Longhi’s conclusions that the Borghese composition was executed at a date later than that given on the panel (Longhi 1928).

A different opinion was expressed by the author of the editorial note that accompanied Benesch’s 1928 article, who proposed the name of Hans von Kulmbach. For her part, Paola della Pergola (1959)  distanced herself from Aldo de Rinaldis’s attribution to Dürer (1948) and cautiously suggested the hand of Christoph Amberger; yet her thesis was rendered improbable by the date shown in the composition, which she believed to be authentic. In the end, Della Pergola published the panel as in the ‘manner of Albrecht Dürer, recognising that the work lacks that psychological penetration typical of the oeuvre of the master from Nuremberg, a circumstance which calls into doubt any attempt to confirm the attribution to him.

By contrast, the first critic to rightly attribute the panel to the German painter Hans Leonhard Schäuffelein, a student of Dürer, was Friedrich Winkler (1957). This idea was supported by Peter Strieder (1961) and subsequently accepted by all critics (Herrmann Fiore 1997; C. Stefani in Galleria Borghese 2000; Herrmann Fiore 2006), with the exception of Angela Ottino della Chiesa (1968), who located the work in the circle of the followers of Dürer.


Antonio Iommelli

  • A. von Zahn, Der Cicerone, III, Malerei, 1869, p. 939;
  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 379;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 146, p. 149;
  • O. Benesch, Die Fürstenbischöfliche Gemäldegalerie in Kremsier, in “Pantheon”, I, 1928, I, pp. 22 ss.;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 202;
  • O. Benesch, Nochmals das Kremsierer Dürerbildnis, in “Pantheon”, XIV, 1934, XIV, p. 299;
  • H. Tietze, E. Tietze-Conrat, Kritisches Verzeichnis der Werke Albrecht Dürer, II, Basel-Leipzig 1938, p. 219;
  • L. von Baldass, Zur Bildniskunst der Dürerschule. II: Die Bildniskunst des Jörg Pencz und Bartel Beham, in “Pantheon”, XXV, 1940, XXV, p. 259;
  • A. De Rinaldis, Catalogo della Galleria Borghese, Roma 1948, p. 47;
  • P. della Pergola, Itinerario della Galleria Borghese, Roma 1951, p. 31;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, pp. 161-162, n. 231;
  • F. Winkler, Albrecht Dürer: Leben und Werk, Berlin 1957, p. 192;
  • P. R. Strieder, Catalogo mostra Meister um Albrecht Dürer, Norimberga 1961, n. 292;
  • A. Ottino Della Chiesa, L’opera completa del Dürer, Milano 1968, p. 103;
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, Guida alla Galleria Borghese, Roma 1997, p. 287;
  • C. Stefani in P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 233;
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, Galleria Borghese Roma scopre un tesoro. Dalla pinacoteca ai depositi un museo che non ha più segreti, San Giuliano Milanese 2006, p. 95.