In 1827 Joseph Heller mentioned in his biography of Durer (9) a print by Cornelius Galle published in 1587 and titled Damianus a Goes. Although working from an early copy of the print, before a spurious AD monogram was added, Heller stated that this print was likely based on a missing Durer painting. Matthias Mende praised Heller's insight in his article "Duerer's so-called Portrait of Damiao de Gois : toward a reconstruction of a lost painting of 1521" (10). Joaquim de Vasconcellos, the Portuguese biographer of Damaino de Gois, published in 1879 (1) his discovery of a drawing of an unknown man in the Albertina (Inv. no. 3166) ascribed to Durer. Clearly the Albertina drawing is of the same sitter, in the same pose.
Vasconcellos was convinced that the sitter was indeed the eminent Portuguese historian Damaio de Gois and that the Albertina drawing was by Durer. That the Albertina drawing was by Durer was later refuted by H.Tietze and E.Tietze-Conrat (2) Furthermore Friedrich Winkler (3), and Eduard Flechsig (4) disagreed that the portrait could be Damaio on the grounds that the sitter in the Albertina drawing was too old to have been drawn by Durer, when Durer and Damaio might have met in Antwerp in 1521.
Subsequently an oil on panel version of the portrait was sold by Agnews, as by Durer, in the 1940s. This version then passed through both Sotheby's and Christie's and is now owned by the Phoebus Foundation. Forty years ago another, unfinished oil on panel, version emerged in Scotland - the Scots portrait.
Thus, there are now four known and apparently early versions of this image portraying a man, possibly the Portuguese historian and diplomat Damaio de Gois, including the print by Galle published in 1587. All four depict a young man in an identical pose, with almost identical features and wearing identical hats. Clearly they must stem from one original portrait sitting, which resulted in a prime version. This website will discuss the status of the versions, their relationships and whether some other version, presently unknown, is the original drawn, or painted version.
The Scots version was included in the exhibition "Dürer was here. A Journey becomes Legend". 18. July – 24. October 2021 Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum, Aachen no. 58 as Unknown Painter "Portrait of a bearded ma, possibly Joao Brandao".
What of future research? At the moment we have to base our opinion, as to the author, on style. This is problematic with the unfinished Scots version, as we know of no other comparable unfinished paintings. One prospect for final resolution is DNA. Each human sheds approximately 10 million skin fragments per day, mostly from the scalp, face and hands. These become embedded in wet paint and should eventually be able to connect pictures worked on by the same artists. As to the sitter, AI facial recognition will be applied more and more to the thousands of portraits now on the internet, ever bringing forth new identifications as more images are published.
We are very interested to hear other opinions or insights on this matter.
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