Once believed to have formed part of the rich Aldobrandini collection, this painting depicts Ludwig X, Duke of Bavaria. The half-length portrait shows him with a long beard and a lavish headpiece. The name of the subject and his age appear along the upper border of the work. The panel is a workshop replica that probably derives from an original produced in the 1530s in the atelier of the German painter and engraver Barthel Beham, who specialised in the production of portraits and small-scale engravings.
17th-century frame painted black with floral grotesques, 62.5 x 55 x 6 cm
(?) Rome, collection of Olimpia Aldobrandini, 1700 (Inv. 1700, room IX, no. 28; Della Pergola 1959); Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese 1833 (p. 37, room: toward the Garden, no. 50); purchased by Italian state, 1902.
top center: "DEI GRACIA LUDOVICUS UTRIUSQUE/BAVARIAE DUX AETATIS SUAE XXXVII"
The provenance of this panel is still unknown. The hypothesis that it figures among the paintings in the Aldobrandini collection summarily described in that family’s inventories as ‘works by Dürer’ is not sustainable (Della Pergola 1959), as more precise details are lacking.
In light of this circumstance, the first certain mention we have of the painting dates to 1833, when the compiler of the Inventario Fidecommissario ascribed a work ‘1½ spans wide, 2 spans high, on panel’ to Albrecht Dürer. While Giovanni Piancastelli (1891) maintained the attribution, it was rightly rejected by Adolfo Venturi (1893), who deemed it an antique copy of a lost original, executed by the German school.
The first scholar to put forth the name of Barthel Beham was Herrman Voss (1908), who justly noted the connection between the portrait and a mirror-image engraving with the same subject. In his view, the Borghese composition was the prototype from which the print was made; in addition, he pointed out a replica of the panel in question at the Liechtenstein Museum.
In 1936, however, Paul Wescher proposed a different theory, namely that the Borghese painting derived from a portrait of Ludwig X of Bavaria executed in 1543, which this scholar ascribed to Jörg Pencz. For his part, Stephen Pogalyen-Neuwall (1940) proposed attributing the work in the Liechtenstein Museum and another composition, signed and dated 1530 (Schleissheim Palace Gallery), to Beham, and the Borghese portrait together with another exemplar (private collection, Berchtesgaden) to the artist’s workshop.
In 1955, Paola della Pergola published the work as by the workshop of Barthel (Della Pergola 1955; followed by C. Stefani in Galleria Borghese 2000 and Herrmann Fiore 2006). As this scholar noted, such portraits depicting famous persons met with so much success that numerous replicas were produced in the workshops of the great masters, as is well known. This is most likely the case of the panel in question, which is probably a product of Beham’s workshop dating to the late 1530s, when the painter was active at the court of Ludwig X of Bavaria, executing various portraits with the aid of his collaborators.