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Although the sitter's identity is not verified, he is possibly Johann Dorsch, a cleric in Nuremberg. The clergyman's ardor, spiritual zeal, and intense determination are communicated through the turn of the head, the fixed, staring eyes, and the tight, compressed lips.

With great respect for reality, Dürer has recorded every detail of the man's appearance regardless of how small or unimportant it may be: the wrinkles and lines of the face, the individual strands of fine hair, the coarse skin texture, and even the reflection of window panes in the irises of the eyes. This incisive clarity and accuracy derive in large part from Dürer's experience in the graphic arts.

The portrait is of further interest for having been painted on parchment rather than on wood, which was still the most common support. Experimenting with techniques and materials, Dürer also used silk and linen at times. The animal skin gives the paint surface a fine, smooth quality and lends amazing richness to the oil colors.

More information on this painting can be found in the Gallery publication German Paintings of the Fifteenth through Seventeenth Centuries, which is available as a free PDF


upper right: 1516 / AD (in monogram)


Paul von Praun [d. 1616] and descendents, Nuremberg, by 1719 until at least 1801.[1] Count Johann Rudolph Czernin von Chudenitz [1757-1845], Vienna, by 1821;[2] by inheritance through the family of the Counts Czernin, Vienna; Count Eugen Czernin von Chudenitz [1892-1955], Vienna, until 1950; (Frederick Mont, New York, and Newhouse Galleries, New York); purchased 1950 by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York;[3] gift 1952 to NGA.

Exhibition History

Albrecht Dürer Ausstellung, Germanisches Museum, Nuremberg, 1928, no. 61.
Loaned to a small exhibition of portraits of Huldrych Zwingli, Schweizerisches Landesmuseum, Zurich, 1948-1949, no cat.
Durero y Cranach: Arte y Humanismo en la Alemania del Renacimento, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, 2007-2008, no. 105, repro.
Albrecht Dürer: His Art in Context, Städel Museum, Frankfurt, 2013-2014, no. 4.9, repro.
Dürer e il Rinascimento tra Germania e Italia, Palazzo Reale, Milan, 2018.

Technical Summary

There are scored lines at the junction of the painted surface and the unpainted edges, and these appear to be part of the preparation of the parchment. The unpainted area is not intact along the right edge. The parchment has been adhered to a single-thread, plain-weave fabric then mounted on a stretcher.[1] It is not known when the lining took place - although Eisler suggests the early nineteenth cenury[2] - or if there was, as seems likely, an original auxiliary support, probably wood. The paint surface is marred by weave interference that presumably occurred during the lining process. There is no evidence of a ground under the paint layer, and examination with infrared reflectography did not disclose underdrawing. The green background seems to have been put in first, with space left for the head and clothing. A significant design change occurs in the chin, which is larger than the space allotted for it.

There are several tears in the parchment along the bottom, left, and top edges. Areas of abrasion are visible, particularly in the neck and hair on the right of the face, and there are extensive pinpoint losses. There are small losses in the eyes and the mouth, possibly the result of vandalism that took place before 1934.[3]

[1] Several authors, beginning with Tietze and Tietze-Conrat 1937 and including Panofsky 1943 and Anzelewsky 1971, have mistakenly listed wood as the auxiliary support for the parchment.[2] Eisler 1977, 16.[3] The hole in the lips is mentioned in Tietze 1934, 110.


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