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Relief - Portrait of an Unknown Man
  • Portrait of an Unknown Man
    Henne, Joachim, born 1630
  • Enlarge image

Portrait of an Unknown Man

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Germany (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1665 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Henne, Joachim, born 1630 (sculptor)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved ivory

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Sculpture, Room 111, The Gilbert Bayes Gallery, case DR5

This oval medallion carved in relief, depicting an unknown man, was made by Joachim Henne in Germany in ca. 1665. Portraits in ivory were fashionable in the 17th and 18th centuries. Generally elephant or walrus ivory was used. Since the pieces were limited in size the portraits tended to be small, yet they could still be monumental in form.
Joachim Henne (active 1663-1707) was a renowned ivory carver, who worked in Denmark and Northern Germany, specialising in small portrait reliefs and busts. He also executed figure groups, and relief depicting mythological scenes. Comparatively little is known of Henne’s life, including when and where he was born or died, or where he was trained. Although possibly from Jutland or North Germany, he may have trained in South Germany, in Ulm or Augsburg, and was active in Hamburg (1663-5), Gottorf (1665-7), and Copenhagen at the Court of King Frederick III, and then under that of Frederick’s successor, King Christian V, from 1667 until 1691. From 1702-7 he is recorded as court miniature painter at the Brandenburg Court in Berlin, and he is also known to have worked in wood.

Physical description

The oval relief shows a quarter-length portrait of an unknown sitter wearing a skull-cap over long, flowing hair, dressed in a shirt with a wide patterned collar, a so-called "soup-plate" and open-sleeved doublet. He is placed against a classicising architectural setting of columns, pilasters and niches. A figure in the niche on the left appears to be Minerva, and it has been suggested the sitter may be a scholar for this reason.

Place of Origin

Germany (made)


ca. 1665 (made)


Henne, Joachim, born 1630 (sculptor)

Materials and Techniques

Carved ivory


Height: 15.8 cm, Width: 11.3 cm

Object history note

Purchased in 1982 for £ 3,887, with the departmental fund.

Descriptive line

Medallion, oval relief, ivory, portrait of an unknown man, by Joachim Henne, German (Hamburg), ca. 1665

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Theuerkauff, C. Die Bildwerke in Elfenbein des 16. - 19. Jahrhunderts, Berlin, 1986, p. 147
Trusted, Marjorie, Baroque & Later Ivories, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2013, cat. no. 14





Subjects depicted

Architecture, buildings; Man; Pilasters


Portraits; Sculpture; Reliefs; Medallions


Sculpture Collection

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