Baroque and Rococo


Baroque and Rococo Art Map


The Art of the Portrait


Masterpieces of European Portrait-Painting




  The Art of the Portrait
  The Great Age of the Portrait
  Origins of the Portrait
  Jan van Eyck: Tymotheos
  Jan van Eyck: The Marriage of Giovanni Arnolfini
  Jan van Eyck: The Virgin of Chancellor Rolin
  Rogier van der Weyden: Portrait of a Lady
  Jean Fouquet: Etienne Chevalier Presented by St Stephen
  Hans Memling: Man with a Roman Coin
  Antonello da Messina: Portrit of a Man, known as "Il Condottiere"
  Early Portrait of a Ruler
  Piero della Francesca: Federigo da Montefeltro and his Wife Battista Sforza
  Portraits of Renaissance Women
  Pisanello: Young Lady of the Este Family
  Leonardo da Vinci: The Lady with the Ermine (Cecilia Gallerani)
  Leonardo da Vinci: Mona Lisa (La Gioconda)
  Giorgione: Portrait of a Young Lady ("Laura")
  Piero di Cosimo: Simonetta Vespucci
  Agnolo Bronzino: Laura Battiferri
  The Psychological Portrait
  Lorenzo Lotto: Young Man before a White Curtain
  Lorenzo Lotto: Man with a Golden Paw
  Moretto da Brescia: Portrait of a Young Man
  Portraits and Caricatures
  Quentin Massys: Old Woman (The Queen of Tunis)
  Portraits of Renaissance Humanists
  Luca Signorelli: Portrait of a Middle-Aged Man
  Agnolo Bronzino: Portrait of Ugolino Martelli
  Raphael: Baldassare Castiglione
  Lucas Cranach the Elder: Dr. Cuspinian and his Wife
  Hans Holbein the Younger: Erasmus of Rotterdam
  Mythologising Portraits
  Agnolo Bronzino: Andrea Doria as Neptune
  Nicoletto da Modena (?): Francis I of France as an Antique God
  Portraits of Popes and Cardinals
  Raphael: Pope Leo X with Cardinals Giuliano de' Medici and Luigi de Rossi
  Titian: Pope Paul III, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese and Duke Ottavio Farnese
  Portraits of Artists and Collectors
  Lorenzo Lotto: Andrea Odoni
  Titian: Jacopo de Strada
  Artists' Self-Portraits
  Albrecht Durer: Self-Portrait with a Fur Coat
  Nicolas Poussin: Self-Portrait
  Rembrandt: Self-Portraits
  Portrait of a Friend
  Hans Holbein the Younger: The French Ambassadors to the English Court
  "Teste Composte"
  Giuseppe Arcimboldo: Vertumnus
  Portraits of 16th and 17th-century Rulers
  Titian: Emperor Charles V after the Battle of Miihlberg
  Anthony van Dyck: Charles I of England, Hunting
  Hyacinthe Rigaud: Louis XIV of France
  Philippe de Champaigne: Triple Portrait of Cardinal Richelieu
  Marriage and Family Portraits
  Peter Paul Rubens: Rubens and Isabella Brant under the Honeysuckle
  Jacob Jordaens: The Artist and his Family
  Portraits of Children
  Giovanni Francesco Caroto: Boy with a Drawing
  Jan van Scorel: The Schoolboy
  Diego Velazquez: The Infante Philip Prosper
  Dutch Civic Guard Portraits
  Rembrandt: "The Night Watch"
  Portraits of Regents
  Frans Hals: The Governors of the Old Men's Almshouse at Haarlem
  Anatomy Lessons
  Rembrandt: The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp
  Portraits of Fools and Dwarfs
  Diego Velazquez: The Dwarf "El Primo"



ortraits of Renaissance Humanists


see also:

Lucas Cranach

the Elder

Lucas Cranach the Elder

Dr. Cuspinian and his Wife


Lucas Cranach the Elder
Portrait of Dr. Johannes Cuspinian

c. 1502
Oil on wood, 59 x 45 cm
Oscar Reinhardt Collection, Winterthur

Lucas Cranach the Elder
Portrait of Anna Cuspinian
c. 1502
Oil on wood, 59 x 45 cm
Oscar Reinhardt Collection, Winterthur



Lucas Cranach the Elder
Dr. Cuspinian and his Wife


The nine women appear to be the nine Muses, who were answerable, according to Greek myth, to their leader Apollo, who has been identified as the figure behind the tree at the left of the picture. Their element is water. A balance is intended here to the fire behind Anna Cuspinian. Perhaps this polarity symbolises the distinction between the genders: according to Plutarch, fire was the male element, water the female.

Cranach painted this double portrait on the occasion of the marriage of the Viennese humanist Johannes Cuspinian and his wife Anna, daughter of an official of the Emperor. Cuspinian's (1472-1529) real name was Spiepheimer, and he was originally from Schwemfurt. He studied at Leipzig where he earned his laurels as a poet, advancing, at the age of twenty-seven, to the position of rector at the University of Vienna. He went on to hold various other positions - Imperial Superintendent of the University from 1501, and Dean of the Medical Faculty from 1501/02-eventually becoming personal adviser and official historian at the court of Emperor Maximilian I. In 1508, he edited Rufus' "Descriptio orbis "; he was editor of Otto von Freising's "World Chronicle" (1515ff.), and author of the "History of Roman Consuls up to Justinian" the so-called "Consules" (almost completed by 1512), and of a renowned book on Roman emperors ("De Caesaribus atque Imperatoribus Romanis", Strasburg 1540). Like Conrad Peutinger, Conrad Celtis and others, Cuspinian was undoubtedly one of the most versatile humanists of his age. Initially, Cuspinian showed great sympathy for the theological and political aims of the Reformation. Like many other humanists, however, he distanced himself from the revolutionary movement after the Peasants' War and reaffirmed his allegiance to the Catholic Church.

Lucas Cranach the Elder
Dr. Cuspinian and his Wife


Lucas Cranach the Elder
Dr. Cuspinian and his Wife


The parrot, whose call was thought to be
"Avc", the Angelic Salutation, was considered
a Marian symbol: a sign of innocence and

Lucas Cranach the Elder
Dr. Cuspinian and his Wife


Lucas Cranach, Cuspinian's equal in years, had entered his father's workshop and travelled through south Germany before meeting with success in Vienna, where his work was particularly well received in humanist circles. The humanists provided him with access to the court, thus paving his way to the position of court painter (in 1504 he went to Wittenberg to take up this office under Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony).
Cranach composed these portraits as a pair. This is apparent in the continuity of the landscape behind the elegantly dressed couple. The trees at the edges of the painting, on the left and right of the figures, are placed so that their branches form an arch, imparting an air of grandeur to the sitters. The background was evidently composed
with a distinct purpose in mind: nothing here is arbitrary. The landscape is full of erudite symbolism, probably devised by Cuspinian himself. In a well-informed study on this double portrait, Dieter Koepplin has suggested that Cuspiman's frame of reference was Pico della Mirandola's "Poetica Theologica", and Marsilio Ficmo's doctrine of divine mysteries. He concludes that the various images disguise hieroglyphic allusions to the cabbala. An example of this is the artist's secretive mimmalisation of symbols, turning them into "occult" figures. At the left of the picture, for example, behind the tree, there is a minuscule figure with long, flowing hair, whom Koepplin has convincingly identified as Phoebus, or Apollo, since the figure is given a lyre and bow, the attributes of this antique god. However, Apollo does not appear here as the god of light, but rather as the opposite: as a "chtonian-mantic" god (Koepplin), almost a demon. The writhing snake on the ground is a reference to Asclepius, the god of medicine, who was a son of Apollo (cf. Ovid, Metamorphoses 2, 602-620). The detail alludes to Cuspinian's medical profession, as does the red beret on his head: "Medicus rubras fert corpore vestes" (A doctor wears red clothing).
Another figure, one so tiny as to be almost invisible, stands on a pinnacle of rock on the castle-topped mountain behind Cuspmian. Shown in an antique gesture of adoration, the figure prays to a star which Cranach has painted in real gold. The star is evidently supposed to represent the Epiphany in the teachings of the early Christian hymnic poet Clemens Prudentius. whose work demonstrably had a profound effect on Cuspmian. Koepplin interprets the figure as Orpheus, relating his position on the mountain to the Platonic notion of "furor poeticus", and to the mountain-cult which often accompanied the veneration of stars.
The nine women washing, bathing and carrying water in the middle distance between Cuspmian and his wife, may be connected to Apollo, too. They appear to be the nine Muses, who were answerable, according to Greek myth, to their leader ("Musagetes") Apollo. Their element is water, and a balance is evidently intended here to the fire behind Anna Cuspinian. Perhaps this polarity symbolises the distinction between the genders: according to Plutarch, fire was male and water female, a notion adopted by Ficino. This theme seems appropriate enough for a wedding painting. It is possible, however, that the fire alludes to the burning bush (Exodus 3, 2), which was used as a symbol for the Immaculate Conception during the late Middle Ages because it "burned with fire" but "was not consumed", just as Mary had remained a virgin during motherhood. The chastity of the Virgin remained an ethical precept for married women for many centuries. The motif of the parrot on the tree, given to Anna Cuspinian as an attribute, is consistent with this precept. The call of the bird was thought to be "Ave", the Angelic Salutation; since the Middle Ages it had therefore been considered as a Marian symbol, a sign of the innocence and purity associated with Mary.
What then is the significance of the other birds shown against the darkening sky? Behind Cuspinian there is an owl with prey in its talons being mobbed by a flock of birds; behind his wife on the right, an eagle and a swan (on its back) are locked in combat. As a humanist emblem, the owl was highly ambivalent, sometimes referring to the goddess Athena's (or Minerva's) wisdom, sometimes to its recalcitrant opposite: blind stupidity.

Lucas Cranach the Elder
Dr. Cuspinian and his Wife

The posture of Cuspinian's head may be intended to show the humanist still pondering over a book he is holding in his hands. However, its slightly raised position may indicate that he is listening.

The motif of the struggle between swan and eagle can be elucidated more clearly. It appears that Cuspinian and Cranach consulted Pliny (X, 203) here. Pliny had been impressed by the swan's courage, since it did not fear to do battle with an attacking eagle, and often emerged victorious from the fight. It is not unlikely that Cuspinian was using the motif of the flying bird - a signifcant cipher in the "divinatory", or mantic, arts, in which the humanists liked to dabble after the example of the Classics - to denote the principles which he wished to govern his conduct: courage and wisdom, for example.
It would be quite unsatisfactory merely to decipher the landscape background symbol by symbol without seeing its significance as a whole. Beyond a system of occult signs, the landscape allows a generous framework for the couple's understanding of themselves, providing a medium for the new cult of sensitivity and awareness of nature which some humanists, notably Conrad Celtis, Joachim Camerarius and others, were propagating in literary form through the Classical topos of the pleasance, or pleasure-park.
Landscape acts as an echo-chamber for mental states, and, as such, represents a macrocosm in which the individual, or microcosm, finds his or her emotional world reflected. Perhaps this explains the posture of Cuspinian's head. Of course, his pose may be intended to show the humanist still pondering over a book, which he now holds closed in front of him, his left hand - exposing two ringed fingers - resting on its cover. However, his slightly raised head may indicate that he is listening. The listening motif may refer to a piece of Neoplatonic writing by Marsilio Ficino which was especially popular in humanist circles: "It is through our ears that melodious harmonies and rhythms enter our souls, admonishing and inspiring us to lift our spirits forthwith, and, in the very depths of our being, to ponder on such divine music."

Lucas Cranach the Elder
Dr. Cuspinian and his Wife


see also:

Hans Holbein

the Younger


Hans Holbein the Younger:

Erasmus of Rotterdam


Hans Holbein the Younger
Erasmus of Rotterdam


Hans Holbein the Younger
Erasmus of Rotterdam


Bought by Louis XIV from the Cologne banker Eberhard Jabach, the painting initially entered the royal collection, from whence it found its way to the Louvre.
Hans Holbein the Younger executed several portraits of Erasmus of Rotterdam. His famous portrait of 1523, now at Longford Castle, shows a three-quarters view of the humanist in the narrow corner of a room, staring out in front of him with tired eyes. To his left there is a richly ornamented pilaster, crowned by a capital with the relief of a fabulous, mermaid-like creature. Behind him, divided off by a curtain, is a recess with a shelf and some books. Erasmus is standing at a table, his hands resting on a book whose facing edge bears an inscription referring to Heracles in slightly incorrect Greek. This is probably meant as a humorous reference to the painstakingly detailed commentaries and annotations that Erasmus supplied with his Latin translation of the New Testament, or to his philological work in general.


Hans Holbein the Younger
Erasmus of Rotterdam


Holbein's portrait (now at the Louvre) is similar to a portrait executed by Quentin Massys in 1517, in that both show Erasmus writing. Holbein's portrait is undoubtedly one of the greatest sixteenth-century portraits of a humanist. The portrait consciously reverts to an old-fashioned profile view. Whereas quattrocento profile-view portraits often appeared conventional and stiff, Holbein introduces an intensely dynamic psychological dimension by showing the sitter actively engaged as a historical subject. The silhouette of the great thinker is shown against a panelled interior with a repeat-pattern tapestry. His large, dark coat with its brown, turned-up cuffs and the black beret on his head provide a contrast against which his face and hands stand out as the centres of his intellectual activity. Erasmus is shown writing, his lowered, seemingly introverted gaze on the written page, obscuring the pupils of his eyes. The scholar is entirely engrossed and appears not to notice the (imagined) spectator.


Quentin Massys
Erasmus of Rotterdam


This was evidently the way in which Erasmus wanted to be seen: at work, recording the movement of thought in writing. He probably sent the likeness to his friend Thomas More, to whom, in 1511, during his third visit to England, he had dedicated his satirical work "In Praise of Folly" (Encomium Moriae), a pun on More's name.
Like his portrait of the French ambassadors, Holbein's portrait of Erasmus contains a number of hidden allusions. One of the ornamental animals on the tapestry can be identified as a griffin, a fabulous beast described in ancient myths as having the talons of an eagle and the body of a lion. Medieval and Renaissance Christian hermeneutics saw these characteristics as metaphors for vigilance (eagle) and courage (lion). At the same time, the beast symbolised the ambivalent nature of Christ: the bird represented divinity, the lion's body the human being. In Dante Alighieri's "Purgatory" (29,106ff.) there is a description of a griffin pulling the triumphal chariot of the church. On the eve of the Peasants' War, with various religious groups either attacking or championing him for their own cause, Erasmus used the hidden allusion to Dante's "Divine Comedy" to demonstrate his allegiance to the church. He remained loyal to the church all his life, despite his sympathies for the Reformation and criticism of the Roman Catholic clergy.


Hans Holbein the Younger
Sir Thomas More

Holbein painted several portraits of Sir Thomas More, who was a close friend of Erasmus.
This was the preliminary drawing, executed in 1527, for a painting of More's family
(for which there arc further drawings of the heads of individual sitters).
After his return to Basle, Holbein delivered the drawing to Erasmus,
who was most enthusiastic.

Hans Holbein the Younger
Hand Study of Erasmus of Rotterdam
Musee du Louvre, Paris

Albrecht Durer


Hans Holbein the Younger
Erasmus of Rotterdam



Hans Holbein the Younger
Sketch for the Portrait of Sir Thomas More and his Family
Pen, brush and ink over chalk on paper, 38.9 x 52.4cm
Basic, Offentliche Kunstsammlung, Kupfcrstichkabinett

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