Jakob Elsner

(c. 1486—1517)

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(fl ?Konstanz, c. 1486; d Nuremberg, 1517). German painter and illuminator. Although there is no documentary reference to him in Nuremberg, he may have been the son of the wealthy Sebald Elsner, who became a citizen there in 1456. Elsner had apparently established his reputation as a portrait painter by c. 1490, but there is no evidence of his activity as a miniaturist before 1500. His skill as a lutenist led to friendship with Sebastian Imhof, Wilhelm Haller and Lorenz Staiber, whose patronage probably promoted his work. The earliest portraits attributed to him, of long-since-dead participants in the Council of Konstanz (1414–18), suggest that he began his journeyman years in the Upper Rhine area, in Konstanz. In the portrait of the councillor Heinrich Schilther (c. 1486; Vienna, Akad. Bild. Kst.) the head fills out the picture, with highly lifelike features; Thomas Reuss (c. 1486; Austrian priv. col.) presents the first front-view portrait in German painting, pre-dating Dürer's Self-portrait (1500; Munich, Alte Pin.); and Bertruid Reuss (Austrian priv. col.) has a delicate smile on her full mouth. Although these portraits are archaic in effect, they are less so than the portrait triptych of Conrad Imhof (c. 1486; Munich, Alte Pin.) and the splendid ornamental portrait of Jörg Ketzler (c. 1499; Nuremberg, Ger. Nmus.), in which the drawing of the eyes, nose and mouth is fairly crude.


From The Grove Encyclopedia of Northern Renaissance Art in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Renaissance Art.