Description & Technical information

Drawings by Sebald Beham are relatively uncommon. Only a few may be related to his prints, and the present sheet is one of these. Both sides of this fine drawing are preparatory studies for two woodcuts used as illustrations for Das Kunst und Lehrbüchlin Sebalden Behams, a treatise on design and draughtsmanship written and illustrated by Beham. First published by Christian Egenolph in Frankfurt in 1546, the book was illustrated with twenty-six woodcuts by Beham; it proved very popular, and was reprinted several times until an eighth edition in 1605.

The related woodcut of the putto with a flaming urn in the Kunst und Lehrbüchlin is signed with Sebald Beham’s monogram and dated 15463. A stylistically comparable drawing by the artist of a putto holding a sickle and a bunch of grapes, dated 1542, was formerly in the Edmund Schilling collection and is today in the British Museum.

The woodcut of the four male heads is signed with the artist’s monogram, but undated. It is also inscribed Hie sihest du die vier angesichter ausgemacht und abgesetzt mitt / scharpfierung und schatten ausserhalb der linien reiß sie nach (‘Here you see the four faces which are offset with shading and shadows trace them outside of the lines’) in letterpress above the image. In the Kunst und Lehrbüchlin the woodcut follows another, related print of the same subject of four heads drawn within a single grid, but without hatching. Thirteen of the twenty woodcuts in the 1546 drawing manual are also studies of heads, and indeed Beham’s interest in expressive heads can also be seen in his earliest known drawing, a sheet of studies of eight heads, dated 1518, in the collection of the Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum in Braunschweig.

Although the drawings on each side of the present sheet are in the same direction as the woodcuts and slightly larger in scale, the several slight differences between them, as well as the evident pentimenti (particularly visible in the right hand of the putto), point to the fact that this double-sided drawing is an autograph study for the two Kunst und Lehrbüchlin woodcuts. The attribution of the present sheet to Sebald Beham has been further confirmed by Dr. Matthias Mende and Dr. Kurt Löcher.

This drawing bears the collector’s mark of the 19th century German portrait painter August Grahl (1791-1868), who worked in Vienna, Berlin and Dresden, as well as in England. Grahl began collecting drawings on visits to Italy in 1821 and 1823.

Date:  1546
Period:  1400-1600, 16th Century
Origin:  Germany
Medium: Pen, Black ink, Black chalk underdrawing
Dimensions: 14.9 x 15.8 cm (5⁷/₈ x 6¹/₄ inches)
Provenance: Possibly Edward Montagu, 2nd Earl of Manchester (according to an inscription on the former mount)
August Grahl, Dresden (Lugt 1199), his stamp on the verso
Sabrina Förster, Düsseldorf, in 2005
Private collection, Europe
Anonymous sale, London, Sotheby’s, 4 July 2007, lot 3.

Categories: Paintings, Drawings & Prints