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Portrait of a Humanist
Scorel, Jan van (Attributed to)
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Scorel, Jan van (Attributed to)

Schoorl (Netherlands), 1495 - Utrecht (Netherlands), 1562

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Portrait of a Humanist

Ca. 1540. Oil on panel. Room 056

Although this panel is not documented, it has been attributed to Scorel since its attribution by Hoogewerff in 1923.The artist depicts the unknown humanist half-length in front of a landscape. Scorel’s time in Venice in 1520 acquainted him with the work of the artists working there, in particular Lorenzo Lotto.The latter had a major influence on his portraits, some of which reveal Scorel’s love of landscape characteristic of both Dutch and Venetian painting, as is evident here. While other portraits of a similar type by Scorel, such as the portrait of two men in Christ Church, Oxford, include a parapet that separates the sitter from the viewer, in the present work the oblique location of this visual barrier and its location on the right function to open up the composition and create a greater sense of communication between the foreground and background. Here Scorel places a curled-up dog on the parapet on which the sitter, who looks out at the viewer, rests his left hand, depicted in foreshortening. He wears a black suit of clothes and a black cap. Scorel emphasises the simplified volumes of the face through a skilled use of lighting and depicts the sitter pointing with his right hand towards the circular building in the background. Although it has been associated with the Tower of Babel due to its structure, this is not definitely the case as it is depicted very differently in a painting by the artist on the construction of the tower (Venice, Gallerie dell’Accademia). In addition, Van Scorel’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land, which he undertook from Venice in 1520, would have made him familiar with the architecture of this region, as is evident in Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem in the Van Lochkorst Altarpiece of 1527 (Utrecht, Central Museum), in which a real view of the city appears.To judge from the obelisk and the column on the left behind the sitter’s shoulder, and from the ring with a face in profile that he clearly displays on his left hand, it is much more likely to be Rome.Van Scorel lived there and was in charge of the antiquities in the Vatican during the pontificate of Adrian VI, who was born in Utrecht (1522–1523). In 1923 the painting was in the collection of M. A. Chiesa in Milan. In 1935 the Museo del Prado acquired it from G. Stein in Paris with funds from the Bequest of the Count of Cartagena. (Silva Maroto, P. en: El retrato del Renacimiento, 2008, pág. 481-482).

Technical data

Inventory number
Scorel, Jan van (Attributed to)
Portrait of a Humanist
Ca. 1540
Height: 67 cm; Width: 52 cm
Collection of M.A. Chiesa, Milán, 1923; acquired by the Prado Museum from Guy Stein with funds from the legacy of the Count of Cartagena, Paris, 1935.

Bibliography +

Hoogewerff, G.J., Jan Van Scorel, Peintre de la Renaissance Hollandaise, Martinus Nijhoff, La Haya, 1923, pp. 78.

Nowe, H., Keizer Karel en Zijn Tijd, Museum Voor Schone Kunsten, Gante, 1955.

de Meyere, J.A.L., Jan van Scorel. Schilder voor prinsen en prelaten, Utrech, 1981.

V.V.A.A., Fiamminghi a Roma, 1508–1608: Artistes des Pays-Bas et de la Principaute de Liège à Rome a la Renaissance, Snoeck-Ducaji & Zoon, Bruselas, 1995.

V.V.A.A., La peinture dans les Pays-Bas au 16e siècle. Pratiques d'atelier, infrarouges et autres méthodes d'investigation, Peeters, Lovaina, 1999, pp. 1-18.

Falomir, Miguel (ed.), El retrato del Renacimiento, El retrato del Renacimiento, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2008, pp. 258, 259.

Hernández i Dobón, Francesc Jesús, Pintar la interpretación. Bucolicarum Vergilii interpretatio de Juan Luis Vives y Un humanista de Jan van Scorel, Archivo de arte valenciano, XCIII, 2012, pp. 277-292.

Other inventories +

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 1678.
Autor, Scorel. / 1678. Asunto, un humanista. / Tabla, 67 x 52 cm. / Nº catálogo, 2580. / Adquirido en 1935 con fondos del 'legado Cartagena.

Exhibitions +

The Renaissance Portrait
03.06.2008 - 07.09.2008

Location +

Room 056 (On Display)

Update date: 04-11-2021 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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