A Man with a Skull

The sitter and the coat of arms at the upper left have not been identified. In the past the portrait has been described as being of a 'Medical Professor', presumably because of the presence of the skull. But in a 16th-century work this is more likely to be intended as a memento mori (reminder of the brevity of mortal life).

When it was acquired by the Gallery this painting was attributed to Holbein. Subsequently it has been described as German, Netherlandish and as a work by Nicholas de Neufchâtel. It has also been suggested that the painting is a fake of the early 19th century, but this is not the case. Recently, it has convincingly been proposed that the portrait was painted by the Brussels artist Michiel Coxcie.

Key facts

Artist dates
born between 1498 and 1500; died 1592
Full title
A Man with a Skull
Date made
about 1560 or later
Medium and support
Oil on oak
97 × 75.4 cm
Acquisition credit
Bought, 1845
Inventory number
Location in Gallery

Further information

In depth