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Page 9  Who was the artist?

Since Joseph Heller suggested in 1827 that Galle's print of Damaio de Gois was based on a painting by Durer and subsequently Vasconcellos' connection of the print to the Albertina drawing, most Durer scholars have followed the attribution of the image to Durer and dated it to his Netherlandish journey of 1520-1521.

The dating to 1521 is supported by the distinctive hat, which Panofsky (6) stated is only seen in Netherlandish portraits of 1520-21 and almost immediately went out of fashion. Professor Reis Santos of Coimbra University challenged Panofsky's view in a written communication to Elizabeth Feist-Hirsch (13). Santos stated that Gois' hat was outmoded, but nevertheless appears on other portraits during the same period. Santos was inclined to believe that the portrait of Gois is a work by Quentin Massys

Durer's working methods

We know from Durer depicting in two woodcuts of methods of capturing perspective and sitters, that he was very interested in this field and invented his own machine and built it in 1515.

The Scots version has pounced dot guides for the eyes nose and mouth areas. The artist has then sketched a very fluid outline of the face in charcoal. This consists of rounded and looping lines that very loosely define the final outline. Similar looping draughtsmanship of organic objects is seen in other Durer drawings.

On the nose and eyebrow of the Scots portrait the artist has deliberately smudged the charcoal to provide a base for a darker area or shadow to be laid over it

Although we do not have a full understanding of Durer's timeline for going from a charcoal sketch to

a full oil portrait, we can gather that they were separated process from letters from Erasmus to Pirckheimer. On July 19th 1523, he wrote: “I praise with all my heart our friend Dürer; he is an artist worthy of immortality. He began my portrait in Brussels; if only he had finished it!” And on January 8th 1525, he wrote again to Pirckheimer: “I too would like to be painted by Dürer, as who would not wish to be by so great an artist ..... he began this work in Brussels, in charcoal, but he has probably lost me a long time ago”. (12)

The unfinished picture by Durer "Salvator Mundi" of 1505? in the Metropolitan Museum, which  is unfortunately not comparable with the unfinished Scots portrait as it is an imaginary drawing,  not a portrait and because of its print-like underdrawing, has produced a number of theories (17) of why it was left unfinished by Durer, although it remained in his possession and that of his wife after his death. These theories mostly centre around Durer using it for teaching. I suggest a simpler explanation. That Durer no longer owned the picture or had promised it to someone and although in his possession, he could not re-use the panel, nor finish it and sell it. His wife Agnes knew that and also retained the panel until it was sold after Agnes' death. A similar scenario may explain why Durer might have taken an unfinished portrait, perhaps the Scots portrait, back to Nuremburg.


The above woodcut is one of two illustrations of copying methods in Durer's "Underweysung der Messung", published in 1525. It shows the artist taking the image of Emperor Maximilian in his bedchamber in Brussels in Augsburg in 1518 using a machine with a fixed view point and a sheet of glass on which dots were made in a wet medium (note the pot in front of the artist) and then transferred to paper or panel.


In this woodcut Durer shows how to take an accurate perspective of a lute. The artist lines up a poiter on an x, y axis

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