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Page 4. The Albertina drawing

Portrait of a Man (Vienna, Albertina, inv. no. 3166)

35.5 x 28.5




 Top right and bottom right and left corners diagonally cut. Bottom right the blindstamp of Herzog Albert von Sachsen-Teschen.


Wohl (perhaps) Kaiser Rudolf II.; Kaiserliche Schatzkammer (?); seit 1783 Kaiserliche Hofbibliothek (?); 1796 (?) an Herzog Albert von Sachsen-Teschen

The provenance back to the 16th C is not secure. The drawing is not identifiable in early inventories. This might be explained by it being mounted on a panel and therefore included in the paintings inventories, but these are more detailed and precise and  do not mention it.

Select Literature

Tietze/Tietze-Conrat 1933  (8), 174; Winkler 917; Strauss XW.917 (7)


Tietze and Tietze-Conrat raised doubts about the authenticity of the drawing. Panofky, Koschatzky, Strobl and Strauss have agreed with them, but Winkler, Bernahard and Talbot have persisted with the old attribution

The ratios of side lengths of this drawing indicate that it might have been trimmed. From the earliest days of paper-making,  makers used a width to lengths ratio of the square root of 2, thus ensuring that if the sheet was folded in half, it would always produce 2 sheets with the original ratio ad infinitum. This rule is still followed with paper sizes today. Drawings such as Durer's portrait drawings in the Netherlands would have been on new sheets and followed the rule. The Albertina drawing does not follow the rule, indicating that, were it is by Durer,  it might have been trimmed of the blank band that he frequently left at the top of his portrait drawings.

On the other hand, if it is a copy of another version, the copyist might have broadened the subjects features to fill out an existing sheet, thus resulting in the marked difference from the other three versions.

The Albertina drawing has an unusual background composed of evenly applied charcoal and grey watercolour, whereas other Durer portrait drawings of the period have a very distinctive background of bold charcoal strokes grouped in varying directions.

It has been proposed that the Albertina drawing was originally mounted on a panel from which it has been removed. In this case, it is very likely to have been framed, but there is no band of differing paper colour round the edges caused by exposure of the uncovered central area to light, or leaching of volatiles into the covered band from the frame and different levels of leaching from the panel into the covered band and the uncovered area.

If the Albertina drawing is the prime original of our series of images, it is hard to explain the absence of the wart, when in the Galle print and Scots versions it is obvious and very clear.

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