A Sleeping Woman (Vanitas)
Georg Pencz (German, c.1500-1550)
On View

George Pencz worked in Albrecht Dürer’s atelier. Like his master, he visited Italy and was profoundly influenced by Venetian art. This painting was meant to be a collector’s cabinet piece or bedroom hanging. Pencz has drawn freely from the Venetian examples of Giorgione and his followers, and the painting’s main interest is undoubtedly erotic.

The exactitude and distinctness with which the body is rendered, however, is typically Northern. Equally Northern are the crisply defined still life elements in the niche, meant to embroider this secular subject with moral references and narrative potential. The seductive sleeping nude associated with moral failure, and the just-extinguished candle, indicative of time passing, suggest the theme of “vanitas.” Pencz has dated his painting on the wall at left and inscribed his initials on the candle snuffer in the niche.


  • Artist Name: Georg Pencz (German, c.1500-1550)
  • Title: A Sleeping Woman (Vanitas)
  • Date: 1544
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: 37 x 69 in. (94.0 x 175.3 cm)
  • Credit Line: The Norton Simon Foundation, Gift of Mr. Norton Simon
  • Accession Number: F.1982.2.1.P
  • Copyright: © The Norton Simon Foundation

Object Information

Private collection, southern France (Richard Goetz?).
Christophe Bernoulli, Basle, to;
[Kate Perls, Paris, 1936, by descent to];
[(Klaus) Perls Gallery, New York, consigned 28 December 1945 to];
[Schaeffer Galleries, New York, stock no. 1074, returned April 1951 to];
[Perls Gallery, New York].
Anonymous (sale, London, Sotheby’s, 22 June 1960, lot 57, sold to);
Bernoulli, sold for $2,000 Feburary 1969 to;
[Schaeffer Galleries, New York and Perls Gallery, New York, stock no. 2586, 29 May 1973 to];
Norton Simon, Malibu, gift 1982 to;
The Norton Simon Foundation.

Classics of the Nude: Loan Exhibition, Pollaiuolo to Picasso, for the Benefit of the Lisa Day Nursery

  • New York, M. Knoedler & Co., 1939-04-10 to 1939-04-29

Aufgang der Neuzeit: Deutsche Kunst und Kultur von Dürers Tod bis zum Dreissigjährigen Kriege, 1530-1650

  • Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, 1952-07-15 to

[on loan]

  • Phoenix, Phoenix Art Museum, 1973-06-01 to 1973-09-10
  • Wescher, Paul, Pantheon, pp. 34, 280-281
  • Frankfurter, Alfred M., Art News, p. 11
  • Bruening, Margaret, Magazine of Art, p. 298
  • Lane, James W., Apollo, no. 174 pp. 298-299
  • Upjohn, E. M., Art in America, pp. 133-134
  • Baldass, Ludwig von, Pantheon, p. 254
  • M. Knoedler & Co., Classics of the Nude, 1939, no. 8
  • Nuremburg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Aufgang der Neruzeit: Deutsche Kunst und Kultur von Dürers Tod bis zum Dreissigjährigen Kriege, 1530-1650, 1952, no. 9
  • Gmelin, Hans Georg, Müncher Jahrbuch der Bildenden Kunst, 1966, no. 24, fig. 38 pp. 66-67, 86-87, 89
  • Osten, Gerst von; and Horst Vey, Painting and Sculpture in Germany and the Netherlands, 1500-1600, 1969, n. 5 pp. 234, 281, 362
  • Norton Simon Museum, Selected Paintings at the Norton Simon Museum, 1980, p. 37
  • Masterpieces from the Norton Simon Museum, 1989, p. 34
  • Campbell, Sara, Collector Without Walls: Norton Simon and His Hunt for the Best, 2010, cat. 936 p. 353
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