Derick Berck of Cologne

Derick Berck, a Hanseatic merchant, gazes warmly at the viewer. His name appears on the folded paper he holds, above his merchant’s mark. The small sheet at left quotes a passage from the ancient Roman poet Virgil, which urges Berck and his descendants—and perhaps the viewer—to be steadfast and courageous in business and life. This statement might have been the sitter’s personal motto. Holbein created a sense of pictorial space by positioning Berck between a table, covered with a red cloth, and a green curtain with a hanging cord. The latter motif recalls the background in the portrait of Sir Thomas More that Holbein made almost a decade earlier, also on view in the exhibition.

Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543)
Derick Berck of Cologne, 1536
Oil on canvas, transferred from panel
Inscribed on lower right, in Latin: The year 1536 at the age of 30
Inscribed on the small piece of paper at left, in Latin: [Perchance even this distress] will someday be a joy to recall (Virgil, Aeneid, I.203)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Jules Bache Collection, 1949; 49.7.29