Bears inscription l.r. Hans Holbein

Pen and black ink, brush and grey ink 
40 x 23.2 cm



A comparable drawing, in which can be found a figure directly derived from the present work, was sold at Christie's, London, Old Master & 19th Century Drawings, 06.07.2004, Lot 156 (as Circle of Hans Jakob Plepp): see the third image above for a comparison of that figure (detail) and our drawing. For a similar stained glass design by Plepp, bearing a later inscribed attribution to Hans Holbein, see The Temptation of Adam, Victoria & Albert Museum, London (Acc. No. E.1118-1924). The peacock seen in the present work (together with the peacock feather in the cap of the landsknecht) is a symbol of the (originally Swiss) Habsburg dynasty. 


The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, hold a drawing by Plepp (Acc. No. 2000.579) which features a similar composition: in the exhibition catalogue for Dürer and Beyond (New York, 2012), Alsteens & Spira write of the Met's drawing, "Although this drawing was once catalogued as by an artist from the circle of Plepp, its quality leaves little doubt as to the work's autograph status: Typical are the decisive line and lively use of wash, which are effectively balanced by areas of paper left blank..." [our italics] (1) The same words could be spoken of the present work, whose vigour and confidence of line and colouring could, we believe, only come from the accomplished hand of Plepp himself. 



Plepp was born in Biel, the son of a Latin teacher. We know nothing of his early career, and the first record of his work is in his hometown in 1578, where is recorded as a painter. From 1579 he workd for clients from Basel, where he eventually moved and was granted citizenship in 1581. On this occasion his profession is noted more specifically as "glass painter". Soon after the move Plepp married Salome, daughter of the Prismell stonemason and sculptor Daniel Heintz the Elder, a prominent craftsman in Basel. Plepp later moved to Bern, where he became a citizen in 1595, a city in which his father-in-law had worked for some time on the construction of a cathedral. Plepp's final dated drawings attest to his activity in Bern, where he died before he had reached the age of 40, between 1597-1598. 


Plepp was one of the most productive Swiss draftsmen of his age, alongside Daniel Lindtmayer the Younger, Christopher Murer and Jost Ammann. His early work shows the influence of Lindtmayer the Elder; while his Basel period borrows motifs from Hans Holbein the Younger and Hans Brand. Works from later in his career also indicate the indicate his knowledge of Ludwig Ringler and the aforementioned Murer, but above all it was the work of Tobias Stimmer which shaped Plepp's style the most. Stimmer's deft combination of narrative scenes with architectural framework, together with his elaborate curclicued garlands and sculptural flourishes, was pushed even further in Plepp's ornate designs. 



(1) Dürer and Beyond: Central European Drawings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1400-1700, eds. Alsteens & Spira, New York (2012), p.101



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