The artist Giovanni Battista Moroni painted the portraits of an unusually large number of ordinary people throughout his native region between Bergamo and Albino, but they have all remained anonymous. This is also true of this lay brother wearing the white habit of his monastic order. In this likeness the artist chose an attractive three-quarter pose instead of the rigorous profile. He was thus able to show to better effect the monk's weather-beaten face with its strong facial features and raised eyebrow.
Johann David Passavant (1787–1861) trained for a commercial career in Frankfurt, but then worked as a painter and art historian. The year 1839 saw the publication of his book ‘Raphael of Urbino and his father Giovanni Santi’ (English edition, 1872), which he dedicated to the Städel Museum’s “most estimable administration”. In 1840 Passavant assumed the position of Städel ‘gallery inspector’. He donated this painting to the museum during his lifetime, and his bequest of 1861 brought the Städel further Old Master works.