A German painter and art historian under the Italian sun: programmatically clad in Old German garb, Passavant paints himself in his adoptive home, in the style of his idol, Raphael. From 1817 onwards, he lived in Italy for ten years and belonged to the Nazarenes. Their belief in the renewal of art through Christendom is exemplified in the juxtaposition of a Roman heathen ruin and a Christian church in the background. In 1840 Passavant ended his artistic activities and took up the position of director of the Städel Museum.
In 1819 Johann David Passavant (1787–1861), painter and later director of the Städel, addressed several letters to his sister Maria Louise and her husband, Ferdinand Ludwig Ziegler. He joyfully reported of a trip to Italy together with an art-loving historian from Frankfurt, Johann Friedrich Böhmer. In 1904 Maria Louise Ziegler’s heirs promised Passavant’s self-portrait to the Städel; the donation was realised in 1918.