c. 1527-1590 | Flemish
Portrait of Valentin Kötzler
Inscribed with the sitter's initials and age "V . K . D . / ANNO ÆTATIS LXVI." (upper left); and inscribed and dated "NACH CHRISTI GEPVRT IM 1564 IAR / DIESES PILDT HIE ABGEMALET WAR" (upper right)
Oil on canvas
Nicolas Neufchatel was one of the great portraitists of his age, and this imposing three-quarter-length portrait of the Nuremberg lawyer Valentin Kötzler is exemplary of his refined portrayals of the German elite. Never before publicly exhibited, it is among Neufchatel's most refined portrayals of his relatively short career.
Radiating confidence, Valentin Kötzler gazes resolutely toward the viewer, and his commanding figure dominates the canvas. His monumental presence is enhanced by his highly fashionable attire, including immaculate robes of his profession trimmed with fur portrayed with extraordinary verisimilitude. The skill of execution is matched by the strength of personality and character that Neufchatel successfully captures. It was precisely this artistic acuity that led a number of his works to have once been attributed to Hans Holbein, whose portraits boast a similar truth to life and analysis of character.
Kötzler was the son of Georg Kötzler, an important Nuremberg merchant who was also a friend of Albrecht Dürer. After becoming a lawyer of renown, he was appointed the legal adviser to the Council of Nuremberg, which involved providing legal advice and participating in negotiations and diplomatic missions. He played a significant role in updating the Nürnberger Reformation, a set of city laws that were originally penned in 1479. His work was eventually published as the 4th edition of the Nürnberger Reformation in 1564, the same year that he died.
Nicolas Neufchatel was born sometime around 1527 in the city of Antwerp, where he later trained as a pupil of Pieter Coecke van Aelst, a painter of Christian religious themes. The young Neufchatel was exposed to portraiture through the works of Frans Floris, the young Willem Key and the Master of the 1540s. He moved to Germany sometime around 1561, perhaps due to religious reasons, and was immediately attracted to the Renaissance city of Nuremberg, which at that time was one of the most significant centers in the whole of Europe.
He flourished in Nuremberg and became highly sought after as a portraitist, particularly among wealthy patricians, humanists and artists. During his approximately 12 years in Nuremberg, he painted only around 40 to 50 known works, the present portrait included. Two years after he painted this portrait, he was commissioned for three pairs of portraits of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II and his daughter Anna of Austria. While the originals have since been lost, several copies do survive. Other portraits by Neufchatel can be found in the National Gallery (London), the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Vienna), the Museum of Fine Arts (Budapest) and others.
Canvas: 39" high x 33 1/4" wide
Frame: 46 3/4" high x 41" wide
"Nicolaus von Neufchatel," Jahrbücher für Kunstwissenschaft, 1871, by W. Schmidt, p. 145
"Nicolas Neufchatel und seine Nürnberger Bildnisse," Münchner Jahrbuch der bildenden Kunst, III, 1926, by R.A. Peltzer, p. 227, no. 666
"Zur Nürnberger Bildniskunst des 16. Jahrhunderts," Münchner Jahrbuch der bildenden Kunst, VII, 1956, by P. Strieder, pp. 133-34
Kunst in der Vereinsbank: 1500 bis 1950, Munich, 1997, B. Kopplin, ed., pp. 74-77
(Possibly) with the German Embassy, London
Kunstsalon (Gemälde-Galerie) Abels, Cologne, 1954
Walter Andreas Hofer, Munich
Private collection, England, 1957
M.S. Rau, New Orleans, 2020