The Augsburg painter Hans Burgkmaier the Elder probably produced this portrait of the polymath Sebastian Brant (1458–1503) around 1508, during the scholar’s sojourn in Augsburg. As chronicler and chancellor of Strasbourg, he had come to Augsburg to pay a visit to his colleague, the humanist Conrad Peutinger.

Relatively small and bearing the sitter’s coat of arms on the back, the portrait was probably painted for private use. Today it constitutes one of the most important examples of the way Burckmair and other German Renaissance artists engaged with the profile format of portraiture in the period between 1500 and 1510.

Brant is shown wearing a fur cap, a scholar’s tunic with red lining and a drop-shaped gold pendant, the emblem of the Strasbourg city chronicler. His facial expression is serious, focused and sober, perhaps even disillusioned. These character traits chime with what one might expect from the author of The Ship of Fools, a moral satire lampooning the weaknesses and vices of society, published in Basel in 1494.


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