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The painting is a three-quarter view of a young woman in an elaborately pleated gown and shoulder cape. The bonnet on her head indicates that she is married, and the expensive jewellery around her neck and on her fingers suggests wealth. Hans Asper created this portrait of Cleophea Krieg von Bellikon in 1538. Zurich’s artistic production, which had flourished in the Late Gothic period, came to an abrupt end at the hands of iconoclastic Reformers. The City Council decided in 1524 to remove all images from Zurich’s churches, since the new creed considered religious effigies idolatrous, vestiges of superstition. For two centuries, only portraits, still lifes and a very few decorative landscapes were in demand, or indeed permitted, in Zurich. Hans Asper had studied with the leading painter of the northern Renaissance, Hans Holbein, with a particular focus on portraiture, and in Zurich he made a career as portraitist to the Reformers and the new regime – although Asper’s ornamental, simplifying, somewhat naive realism is clearly distinct from his master’s style. Asper owned Holbein’s famed family portrait, which Basilius Amerbach had acquired from the painter’s widow and which is now part of Basel’s Public Art Collection. The earlier work served as a template for Asper’s portrait of Cleophea Krieg von Bellikon. Asper replaced the two children in Holbein’s painting with a dog and a cat, thus playing on the proverbial war (‘Krieg’) between the two species of household pet and, together with the evocation of a dog’s bark (‘Bellen’), alluding humorously to his subject’s name and provenance.

Details

  • Title: Portrait of Cleophea Krieg von Bellikon
  • Creator: Hans Asper
  • Creator Lifespan: c. 1499 – 1571
  • Creator Death Place: Zurich
  • Creator Birth Place: Zurich
  • Date Created: 1538
  • Physical Dimensions: 77 x 61 cm
  • Type: painting
  • External Link: Kunsthaus Zürich, Online Collection
  • Medium: Tempera and oil on panel
  • Art Movement: Renaissance
  • Original title: Bildnis der Cleophea Krieg von Bellikon
  • Inventory number: 158
  • Credit line: Kunsthaus Zürich, Keller Collection, 1854

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