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German, Edzard the Great, Count of East Friesland

Key facts
Full title Edzard the Great, Count of East Friesland
Artist German
Date made 18th century
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 48.9 × 36.2 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Mrs C.L. Eastlake in memory of her husband, Keeper of the National Gallery, 1907
Inventory number NG2209
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Edzard the Great, Count of East Friesland

The man in this portrait is mistakenly identified on the reverse as Ulrich I Cirksena, Count of East Friesland, who died in 1466. However, he looks more like Ulrich’s son, Edzard I, known as ‘the Great’, who became count in 1492. His sword is inscribed with a Latin motto: ‘Victor est qvi in / nomen domini pvgnavit’ (‘the victor is he who has fought in the name of the Lord’). The badge on his hat features an eagle, which was part of the coat of arms of the region.

Dendrochronology – a method of determining the age of a piece of wood by analysing its pattern of rings – has revealed that the wooden panel could not have been be used as a support for painting until about 1704; pigment analysis also shows the use of a colour only invented in the early eighteenth century. These tests confirm that the picture was not made from life but is either a copy or version of an earlier portrait. The Cirksena dynasty died out in the mid-eighteenth century, which may have prompted renewed interest in the family.

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