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Title: Hans Holbein
Author: Chamberlain, Arthur B.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Hans Holbein" ***

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                             HANS HOLBEIN

                 Bell’s Miniature Series of Painters.

                  Edited by G. C. WILLIAMSON, Litt.D.

_Pott 8vo., with 8 Illustrations, issued in cloth or in limp leather._

    G. F. WATTS, R.A. By C. T. BATEMAN.






_Hanfstängl photo._]       [_National Gallery._


                  Bell’s Miniature Series of Painters

                             HANS HOLBEIN


                         ARTHUR B. CHAMBERLAIN



                          GEORGE BELL & SONS



LIFE OF HANS HOLBEIN                                                   1

    EARLY DAYS IN AUGSBURG AND BASLE                                   1

    FIRST VISIT TO ENGLAND                                             9

    RETURN TO BASLE                                                   13

    SECOND RESIDENCE IN ENGLAND                                       15

THE ART OF HOLBEIN                                                    23

    LARGE DECORATIVE WORKS AND WALL-PAINTINGS                         25

    RELIGIOUS PAINTINGS                                               29



    PORTRAIT PAINTING                                                 36

OUR ILLUSTRATIONS                                                     44

LIST OF THE ARTIST’S CHIEF WORKS                                      61

CHRONOLOGY OF THE ARTIST’S LIFE                                       69

CHIEF BOOKS ON HOLBEIN                                                71



                                 _Collection of the Duke of Norfolk, now
                        lent to the National Gallery_      _Frontispiece_

THE MEYER MADONNA                _Darmstadt_                          32

THE AMBASSADORS                  _National Gallery_                   46

PORTRAIT OF ERASMUS              _Collection of the
                     Earl of Radnor, Longford Castle_                 50

PORTRAIT OF GEORG GISZE          _Berlin Gallery_                     52

PORTRAIT OF ROBERT CHESEMAN      _The Hague Gallery_                  56

MARY MAGDALEN AT THE SEPULCHRE   _Hampton Court_                      58

DRAWING OF SIR THOMAS MORE       _Windsor Castle_                     60



Hans Holbein was born, in 1497, at Augsburg, in Swabia, Southern
Germany, to which town his grandfather, Michael Holbein, had moved, some
time before 1454, from the neighbouring village of Schönenfeld. His
father, known to-day as Holbein the elder, to distinguish him from his
more celebrated son, was one of the leading painters of Augsburg, and an
artist of importance in the history of German art.

The elder Holbein was one of the first of German painters strongly
influenced by the Italian Renaissance, and a chronological study of his
pictures shows very clearly how great a change was gradually taking
place north of the Alps both in artistic ideals and technical methods,
through an increasing knowledge of what the great painters of the
Southern peninsula had accomplished. In his early work he shows himself
to be a follower of Rogier van der Weyden and his school, but towards
the end of the first decade of the sixteenth century the Gothic
qualities of his painting, with its many hardnesses and angularities,
begin to disappear, and a closer observation and a more truthful
rendering of nature to take their place. He threw off one by one his
Rhenish traditions, and replaced them by the methods of the Van Eycks,
which reached him indirectly through the mellowing influence of the
earlier Venetian painters. He developed, too, a fondness for rich
architectural decoration of the Renaissance type for the backgrounds and
settings of his pictures, in the use of which his son, later on, became
so perfect a master.

As a result of certain forged documents and false inscriptions, a number
of interesting works, formerly ascribed rightly to the father, were
taken from him and given to the son, and hailed as signs of precocious
genius. Even the father’s masterpiece, _The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian_
at Munich, did not escape the enthusiasm of the younger artist’s
biographers. Modern criticism, however, has restored to the father a
series of works which place him among the leading painters of Germany at
the dawn of the new movement in art.

Hans Holbein the younger seems to have received no artistic training
except that which he gained in his father’s studio or workshop, where
his elder brother Ambrosius was also engaged. His uncle Sigismund, too,
was an Augsburg painter, and may have helped in his instruction. His
father, though constantly in debt and difficulties, seems to have
received numerous orders for altar-pieces and other sacred pictures, so
that the workshop was a busy one, and no doubt young Hans began at an
early age to help in such minor details as the painting of draperies
and backgrounds. Much of his genius was inherited from his father,
particularly that remarkable power of portraying character with a few
vivid strokes of the pencil which is one of the crowning glories of his

In those days a young painter generally finished his education by a year
or two of travel before settling down as a master painter in the guild
of his native town. Ambrose and Hans Holbein seem to have followed the
prevailing fashion, leaving Augsburg towards the end of 1514 or early in
1515. In the latter year the father went to Issenheim in High Alsace to
paint an altar-piece, and the two young men may have gone with him.
There is some probability, too, that the whole family settled in Lucerne
about this time. In any case, the two sons were residing in Basle before
the end of 1515, any plan of extended travel being cut short by the
prospect of plenty of work. At that time Basle was the northern centre
of the great revival of literature and learning, and several of its
printers were of European reputation. Many of the chief works of the
leading humanist writers were first published in Basle, and decorated
with woodcut illustrations and ornamental title-pages and borders. The
prospect of employment upon “black-and-white” work of this kind was, no
doubt, one of the chief attractions which brought the two young painters
to the town. Nor were they disappointed, for shortly after their arrival
a commission was given to them by Johann Froben, Erasmus’s publisher,
and the principal printer of the city.

It is not unlikely that the young men first of all entered the workshop
of some Basle painter, such as that of Hans Herbster, whose portrait was
painted in 1516 by one of the two brothers. Until recently this picture
was in the collection of the Earl of Northbrook, and ascribed to Hans,
but since its acquisition by the Basle Museum it has been attributed to
Ambrose. The latter, of whose work we know very little, seems to have
been an artist of only moderate capabilities. He joined the Painters’
Guild in Basle in 1517, and, as no record of him has been found later
than 1519, he is supposed to have died young.

During the next seven or eight years Holbein designed a number of book
illustrations for Froben, Adam Petri, Thomas Wolff, and other printers.
He was ready, however, to turn his hand to anything. He painted a table
with an amusing allegory of St. Nobody for the wedding of Hans Bär in
Basle on June 24, 1515, and in the same year supplied a schoolmaster
with a sign-board to hang outside his house.

It is uncertain when Holbein first became acquainted with the great
scholar of Antwerp, Desiderius Erasmus, who had come to Basle in 1513
for the purpose of superintending the publishing of his books, nor is it
easy to say to what degree of intimacy the artist was admitted by this
brilliant humanist. Erasmus had the greatest admiration for his powers
as an artist, and served him whenever he could, both by employing him
himself and recommending him to others. During Holbein’s first year in
Basle, Erasmus had published through Froben his famous and witty
satire, “The Praise of Folly,” and the artist made a number of drawings
on the margins of a copy of this book, illustrating passages in the
text. He seems to have done them at the suggestion of another
distinguished man of letters, Oswald Molitor, of Lucerne, at that time
employed by Froben, who selected the passages to be illustrated; and a
note in his handwriting says that they were finished on December 29,
1515, and that Erasmus was greatly entertained by them. The original
book is now in the Basle Museum.

Holbein soon began to give proof of his wonderful abilities as a
portrait painter. One of the first commissions he received was in 1516,
from Jacob Meyer, Burgomaster of Basle, whom he painted, together with
his young second wife, Dorothea Kannegiesser, a double portrait in one
frame (Basle Museum). The burgomaster was pleased with the result, and
remained the artist’s constant good friend, procuring important public
commissions for him, as well as making further private use of his

In 1517 he left Basle for Lucerne, where, according to Dr. von Liebenau,
his father was then residing. He was made a member of the
recently-founded Painters’ Guild of St. Luke, and also joined a local
company of archers. On December 10, 1517, he was in trouble with the
magistrates, being fined for taking part in some street brawl, after
which he appears to have left Lucerne for a time. He can be traced as
far south as Altdorf by the remains of a few pictures. If he ever
visited Italy it would be at this period. One or two writers hold that
he made some such journey, and point to several paintings in the Basle
Museum as proof that he must have had personal acquaintance with certain
achievements of Leonardo and his school, which he could only have seen
in Italy; but the influence of Mantegna and Da Vinci, which, though
plainly detected in his early work, is by no means a predominant one,
may be easily accounted for through the numerous Italian engravings then
circulating throughout Europe, without any actual visit to Lombardy on
the part of the artist. He was back in Lucerne in 1518, busily engaged
upon the decoration of the house of the magistrate, Jacob von
Hertenstein, which he covered with frescoes both inside and out. The
remains of this great work were destroyed in 1824, when the house was
demolished for street improvements, but not before the chief designs had
been hastily copied by Schwegher, Ulrich von Eschenbach, and other
Lucerne artists. This was by far the most important undertaking upon
which Holbein had as yet been engaged, and it was the first of a
splendid series of decorative works of which, unhappily, nothing remains
but their fame and a few slight preliminary sketches or indifferent
copies. No one north of the Alps came near to him in the fertility of
design and beauty of execution and of colour displayed by him in this
adaptation of a favourite method of Italian decoration which became
popular in the sixteenth century in certain parts of Germany and

Holbein was back in Basle in 1519. He joined the Painters’ Guild on
September 25, and on July 3 in the following year paid his fees as a
burgher of the city. One of the first portraits he now undertook was
that of _Bonifacius Amerbach_, a brilliant young scholar and intimate
friend of Erasmus and other learned men. Amerbach had the greatest
admiration for Holbein’s genius, and missed no occasion of acquiring any
of his works, and it is owing to his taste and liberal purse that so
fine a collection of the painter’s productions can be studied to-day in
the Basle Museum.

The fame of Hertenstein’s painted house had spread to Basle, and Holbein
was soon busy over similar undertakings in the town of his adoption, of
which the most celebrated was _The House of the Dance_. He also produced
many designs for stained-glass windows, as well as a number of sketches
for costumes and patterns for goldsmiths and metal-workers. His most
important commission at this time, however, was the decoration of the
interior of the new Town Hall with wall-paintings, showing that,
although only twenty-four, he was already considered to be the chief
artist in Basle. He began this work in June, 1521, and by November,
1522, had covered three of the walls with subjects taken from ancient
history. These were probably selected for him, and were intended as
examples of that exercise of stern justice which should characterize the
actions and decisions of all rulers. These great decorative paintings
have long since perished through damp and neglect, and only a few
fragments remain in the Basle Museum. When he had finished three of the
walls, he was of opinion that he had earned the full amount voted by the
Town Council for the completion of the whole chamber. The Council saw
the justice of this, but, cautious of their expenditure of the public
funds, like many Councils of the present day, they resolved to “let the
back wall alone until further notice.”

In spite of these large decorative undertakings, Holbein found time to
paint a number of sacred pictures, among the earlier ones being a
_Passion_ series, coarsely and hastily painted on canvas; a _Last
Supper_, reminding one of more famous examples by Leonardo and Luini;
and others which are described later on (_see p. 29_). His two greatest
sacred pictures, which are worthy to stand by the side of the finest
canvases of the Italians, are the _Madonna and Saints_, at Solothurn,
painted in 1522, and the famous _Meyer Madonna_, at Darmstadt, (_see
illustration, and p. 44_). The latter was executed about 1526 for the
former burgomaster, Jacob Meyer.

Among other works of this period of the artist’s career are two small
portraits (Basle Museum), representing a certain Dorothea Offenburg, a
lady of no great repute in her day, as _Venus with Cupid_, and again as
_Lais Corinthiaca_. These are two of the pictures to which certain
critics point as showing so strongly the influence of the Milanese
school as to suggest a personal visit to Italy.

Holbein’s fame as an illustrator largely depends upon his celebrated
_Dance of Death_ woodcuts, and his illustrations to the New Testament.
Both series were commissioned by the brothers Trechsel, printers, of
Lyons, about 1523, the designs from the pen of Holbein, and the blocks
cut by Hans Lützelburger, the one engraver of the period who was fitted
to reproduce Holbein’s work in its full delicacy and beauty. Both artist
and woodcutter seem to have been occupied with the commission until
1526, in which year Lützelburger died, and although Holbein had
completed his part, the work stopped short for want of a competent
engraver. Neither series was published until 1538, when Holbein was at
his zenith as a portrait painter in England. _The Dance of Death_ has
been popularized by many reprints and reproductions; indeed, these
satires on the uncertainty of life, homilies in miniature, drawn with
the most surprising power and artistic beauty within the smallest
limits, soon became famous throughout Europe.


The Reformation in Switzerland, with the violent passions it aroused,
made painting a precarious means of livelihood. Theological disputes
agitated Basle from end to end, and the lower classes of the community
were given over to disorder and discontent. Disturbances were of
continual occurrence, culminating in the so-called Peasants’ War.
Privilege after privilege was wrested from the nobility and the great
churchmen, and very many of the pictures, images, and decorations in the
churches were wrecked by the fury of the mob in the fight for religious
freedom. The Town Council was no longer in a position to encourage the
development of the fine arts, and the Basle painters had a very hard
struggle to live, and were glad of trivial employment, which in better
times they would have scorned. Holbein, too, had married, about 1520,
Elsbeth Schmidt, the widow of a tanner with one son, and had a young
family of his own, so that he found it increasingly difficult to make
both ends meet. He therefore thought seriously of visiting England in
quest of work, probably at the suggestion of Erasmus, who had many
friends and correspondents there. Holbein had painted his portrait more
than once. One of the finest of them, sent by the learned humanist to
Sir Thomas More, was probably the one now in Longford Castle (_see
illustration, and p. 50_), dated 1523. A second example is the fine
profile now in the Louvre. Erasmus wrote to Sir Thomas More about the
artist, and More, in his reply, promised to do what he could for him
when he came.

Holbein left Basle towards the end of August, 1526, and journeyed to
England by way of Antwerp, where in all probability he made a short
stay, reaching London about November. He was received with much kindness
by Sir Thomas More, then Speaker of the House of Commons, and holding
other high offices; and, according to tradition, remained as More’s
guest at his country house at Chelsea during the whole time of his first
English visit. He seems to have confined his practice as a portrait
painter entirely to Sir Thomas More’s family and his immediate circle
of friends, which was a large and learned one, embracing many of the
leading churchmen, statesmen, and scholars of the day. More does not
appear to have made him known to the King, although it is probable that
Henry, who frequently visited the Speaker at Chelsea, and was a great
patron of the fine arts, must have become acquainted, even as early as
this, with Holbein’s work.

In 1527 he painted Sir Thomas’s portrait, the picture now in the
possession of Mr. Edward Huth. In the same year he painted _William
Wareham_, Archbishop of Canterbury. Two examples of this portrait exist,
both by Holbein, at Lambeth Palace and in the Louvre, and two fine
drawings, in the British Museum and at Windsor. Other portraits of 1527
are those of _Sir Henry Guildford_, the Lord Chamberlain (Windsor); his
wife, _Lady Guildford_ (Mr. Frewen’s collection); _Sir Brian Tuke_
(Munich and the Duke of Westminster); _John Fisher_, Bishop of
Rochester, whose finished portrait is lost, but for which two fine
sketches still exist (Windsor and the British Museum); and several
undated works, such as the portrait of _Sir Henry Wyatt_ (Louvre), were
probably painted in this year. In 1528 he produced the fine portrait of
_Nicholas Kratzer_, the King’s Astronomer (Louvre), and _Thomas and John
Godsalve_, of Norwich, on one panel (Dresden).

The most important work which he undertook at this time has,
unfortunately, disappeared. This was the large portrait group of _Sir
Thomas More and His Family_. Several versions of it still exist, of
which the one at Nostell Priory is the most important, but not one of
them is a genuine work of Holbein’s. Happily, the very beautiful sketch
for the whole composition is to-day one of the chief treasures of the
Basle Museum. It was taken to Switzerland by the artist as a present
from Sir Thomas to Erasmus. Several fine studies for the heads of the
sitters have also been preserved (Windsor collection).

Mention must be made of another important undertaking with which there
is good reason to believe that Holbein had much to do. Early in 1527
French Ambassadors were in London negotiating for an alliance between
England and France. The signing of this treaty was celebrated at
Greenwich on May 5, with much ceremonious festivity, concluding with a
supper in a specially built banqueting-house. One of the chief painters
engaged in the internal decoration of this building was a certain
“Master Hans,” a title by which Holbein was well known; and, common as
this Christian name was in Germany, no trace has ever yet been found of
any other artist named Hans then working in England except Holbein. The
official direction of the building and decorating of this temporary hall
was in the hands of Sir Henry Guildford, and it would be natural for him
to turn to the craftsman of whose artistic powers he had full knowledge.
It was the kind of work, too, for which Holbein was already celebrated
in Switzerland. He appears to have been appointed to supervise the
numerous painters employed, and frequent mention is made of “Master
Hans and his company” (Calendar of State Papers, 1526-1528). By March 2
“Master Hans” had left Greenwich, and was busily engaged in London upon
a large “plat,” or picture, of _The Battle of Spurs_. He had finished
this in a month, and was paid £4 10s. for it. This picture was fixed on
the back of an arch which divided the banqueting-hall from the gallery
leading to the ball-room. Considering the occasion for which it was
painted, the subject was rather a cruel one, representing as it did the
putting to rout of a large body of mounted Frenchmen by a handful of
English cavalry; but it greatly tickled King Henry’s fancy, and he made
a point of drawing the attention of the Ambassadors to it. This picture
has disappeared.


Holbein was back in Basle in the summer of 1528. Possibly he was
recalled by the Town Council, under penalty of losing his rights of
citizenship if he disobeyed. On August 29 he purchased for 300 florins a
house overlooking the Rhine, and on March 30, 1531, he also bought the
adjoining house for 70 florins, thus proving that his English visit had
been far from fruitless. He remained in Basle for four years, but the
only important work upon which he was engaged was the completion of his
Town Hall decorations. The Town Council requested him to finish the
“back wall,” and he covered it with two fine compositions, _The Meeting
of Samuel and Saul_, and _Rehoboam_, the preliminary sketches for which
are now in the Basle Museum. He was engaged upon this work during the
latter half of 1530.

Basle was still torn by religious dissensions, but the party of the
Reformation now held the upper hand. A furious outbreak in 1529 led to
the further destruction of religious paintings and sculpture. Even
Holbein did not escape at least minor persecution for his religious
principles. On June 18, 1530, he was, in conjunction with a number of
his fellow-citizens, called upon to explain why he had not taken part in
the communion service instituted by the Basle Church after the abolition
of the Catholic creed in the previous year. He cautiously replied that
before approaching the Lord’s Table he desired the signification of the
holy mystery to be more clearly explained to him; and this seems to have
been done, as he did not persist in his refusal. Beyond the Town Hall
decorations he does not seem to have found much profitable work to do.
He painted a portrait of his wife and two children (Basle Museum) and a
new portrait of _Erasmus_ in 1530, the small round one now at Basle, the
original source of a number of copies at Parma, Turin, and elsewhere.
There was little opportunity, however, for him to follow his art with
adequate success, and his thoughts naturally turned once more towards
England. He came back to this country in 1532, probably without
informing the Basle authorities of his intention. They sent a very
flattering letter after him, offering him a fixed salary if he would
return, but he does not appear to have taken any immediate notice of
this suggestion.


During Holbein’s absence Sir Thomas More had become Lord Chancellor, but
this office he relinquished in May, 1532, and was gradually falling out
of favour with the King. Holbein did not take up his residence in
Chelsea again, but settled in London, near the large colony of German
and Netherlandish merchants then forming an important part of the
commercial life of the capital. These merchants of the Hanseatic League
formed a close corporation among themselves, and in their midst Holbein
now made his home. Their place of meeting was called the Steelyard, and
here their warehouses and residences were grouped round the hall of the
guild, with its trim garden and special wineshop. Among them the artist
found not only the language and habits of his own country, but also
plenty of well-paid employment.

During 1532 and 1533, and occasionally later, he painted a number of his
compatriots seated in their offices and engaged in the ordinary routine
of business life, including the superb picture of _Georg Gisze_ (Berlin,
_see illustration, and p. 51_), _Hans of Antwerp_, the goldsmith, later
on one of Holbein’s executors (Windsor), _Derich Born_ (Windsor and
Munich), _Derich Berck_ (Petworth), _Geryck Tybis_ (Vienna), _Ambrose
Fallen_ (Brunswick), and several others whose names have not been
discovered. He was also employed by the members of the Steelyard as a
corporate body. At the coronation of Anne Boleyn, in May, 1533, the
streets of London were gaily decorated by the various city companies and
guilds, and the triumphal arch erected by the Hanseatic League was
designed by Holbein. Still more important were the two large allegorical
paintings in monochrome, _The Triumph of Riches_ and _The Triumph of
Poverty_, with which he decorated their banqueting-hall. These fine
works have disappeared. Fortunately, they were copied by Zucchero in
1574, and by Jan de Bisschop (British Museum), while the original sketch
for _The Triumph of Riches_ is in the Louvre.

Holbein had now reached the highest point of his career, and the series
of brilliant portraits he produced during the last ten years of his life
is unrivalled. It was probably owing to his connection with the
Steelyard that he was employed by several foreign Ambassadors, who were
accredited to England during his second residence here. Many of these
German merchants were more than mere traders. Owing to their knowledge
of foreign languages, and their business relations with all parts of the
world, they were often employed by the Government, and occasionally sent
on important missions abroad. In this way they were personally known to
many of the Ambassadors to England.

In 1533 Holbein produced his most important work still in this country,
the picture familiarly known as _The Ambassadors_ (_see illustration,
and p. 47_), representing Jean de Dinteville, French Ambassador at the
English Court, and his friend George de Selve, Bishop of Lavaur. Another
magnificent portrait of an Ambassador was painted about this time,
probably in 1534, the famous one in the Dresden Gallery, for many years
said to be a masterpiece of Leonardo da Vinci, and a portrait of
Ludovico Sforza, and still called in the Dresden catalogue _Hubert
Morett, Goldsmith to Henry VIII_. It really represents _Charles de
Solier, Comte de Morette_, who was in England more than once, and
succeeded Dinteville as resident Ambassador in 1534. His clients,
however, were not only foreigners; he constantly painted Englishmen of
all ranks and classes. In 1533 he produced the fine portrait of _Robert
Cheseman, of Dormanswell_ (Hague), with his hawk on his wrist,
erroneously called _The King’s Falconer_ (_see illustration, and p.
56_), and the equally fine one of a man in black (Berlin), supposed to
be a member of the Trelawney family. The latter’s brother he had painted
in the previous year (Count Schönborn’s Collection, Vienna). In 1534 we
have the portrait of that “hammer of the monks,” Thomas Cromwell, when
only Master of the Jewel House.

It is not until 1536 that we get any actual proof that Holbein was in
the King’s service. In that year he painted the new Queen, Jane Seymour
(Vienna and Woburn Abbey). It seems certain, however, that Henry must
have been well aware of his artistic capacity before this date. A
number of artists, both foreign and native, all greatly inferior to
Holbein, were then employed by the King, and professional jealousy may
have had some share in retarding his entry into the royal service.
During Holbein’s first visit to England John Browne was sergeant-painter
to the King, holding the office for more than twenty years. He was
succeeded by another Englishman, Andrew Wright, who in his turn was
followed by an Italian, Antonio Toto; but, next to Holbein, the leading
painter in England, and a man of real ability, was Lucas Horembault, or
Hornebolt, of Ghent, who had settled here with his father Gerard and his
sister Susannah, both of them artists. The salary that Hornebolt
received from the King was always larger than that paid to Holbein.

In 1537 Holbein painted a great picture on the wall of the Privy Chamber
at Whitehall, representing the two Kings, Henry VII. and Henry VIII.,
and their Queens, Elizabeth of York and Jane Seymour. When the art
historian, Van Mander, saw it in 1604, it was still in perfect
preservation, and he speaks with the utmost enthusiasm about it. It was
destroyed in the fire which burned down that palace in 1698. Happily,
there still exists a small copy of it (Hampton Court), which was made in
1667 by Remigius van Leemput by order of Charles II., and Mr. Ernest Law
has recently discovered a replica by the same painter; while a still
better judgment can be formed of its size, composition, and general
effect from Holbein’s cartoon for the left half, showing the King and
his father, which belongs to the Duke of Devonshire. It is a black chalk
drawing, heightened with Indian ink, and was used for tracing the design
upon the wall.

Almost every other portrait of Henry painted after 1537--and there are
many of them scattered about England and on the Continent--was based
upon the Whitehall likeness. It is very doubtful if even one of them is
the genuine work of Holbein’s brush. Such portraits were multiplied to
give away to foreign Princes and faithful subjects. The best of them is
the well-known full-face representation of the King in Warwick Castle--a
life-size work, very admirably painted, most probably by Hornebolt.
There is really no authentic portrait of him by Holbein in existence,
with the exception of the rough chalk drawing at Munich and the
exquisite square portrait at Althorp, which, in the opinion of Mr.
Lionel Cust, F.S.A., is a genuine example.

After the death of Jane Seymour, the Privy Council lost no moment in
urging the King to marry again. The choice fell upon Christina, daughter
of the King of Denmark, and niece of the Emperor Charles V. She was
Duchess of Milan, and the young widow of Francesco Sforza, the last Duke
of his race. Holbein went over to Brussels in March, 1538, to paint the
lady’s portrait, and an account of this expedition will be found on p.
54. The very lovely full-length portrait of this Princess belongs to the
Duke of Norfolk, who has generously lent it to the National Gallery for
a number of years (_see illustration, and p. 55_). This is, perhaps, the
most perfect piece of portraiture Holbein ever accomplished, and one of
the great pictures of the world.

At this time the artist was receiving a salary of £30 a year from the
King in the form of a retaining fee, and he must have obtained further
payment for whatever work he did. His money was paid quarterly, but he
was occasionally granted a whole year’s salary in advance. In the autumn
of the same year, 1538, he made a second journey abroad, to Upper
Burgundy, for which he received £10 from the King’s purse, probably to
obtain a second sitting from the Duchess. He took this opportunity of
paying a flying visit to Basle, no doubt to talk over with the Town
Council an offer they had just made him of a pension of fifty gulden,
with leave of absence in England for two years longer, if he would then
return to his native city and settle there. He remained in Basle for
only a few days during December, and was received with enthusiasm by his
fellow-citizens. He most probably returned to England by way of Paris,
where he stopped to apprentice his eldest son Philip to the goldsmith
Jerome David. Whatever agreement he may have made with the Swiss
authorities, he did not visit Basle again during the five remaining
years of his life. He was back in London on New Year’s Day, 1539, and
presented a portrait of the young Prince Edward to the King.

In August, 1539, he was again sent abroad upon a similar mission. He
went to Düren, in the Duchy of Cleves, to paint the daughters of the
Duke, a Protestant Prince, with whom, since the negotiations with the
Emperor for Christina’s hand had come to nothing, Cromwell thought an
alliance would be politic. The likeness Holbein made of _Anne of
Cleves_, probably the fine one now in the Louvre, is said by tradition
to have so flattered the lady that Henry consented to marry her, with
the well-known disastrous results.

With the exception of a miniature at Windsor, there is no authentic
portrait of _Catherine Howard_, whom the King married as soon as he had
divorced the unfortunate Anne; but her uncle, _Thomas Howard, third Duke
of Norfolk_, the Lord High Admiral, was painted by him more than once.
Holbein had now become the most popular portrait painter of the day, and
his commissions were very numerous. It is impossible to give a complete
list of them here, but the principal ones will be found in the Appendix.

At Windsor Castle is the magnificent collection of chalk drawings of
heads, over eighty in number, which includes portraits of many of the
most illustrious people of the day. These were preliminary studies for
portraits, and are the finest record we possess of the celebrities of
the Tudor period, invaluable both historically and artistically. In them
Holbein is seen at his finest as a delineator of character.

In 1542 he began the large painting which was ordered to commemorate the
granting of a charter by Henry VIII. to the newly-incorporated Company
of Barber Surgeons, which still hangs in the Company’s Hall in London.
He did not live to complete it. Some of the heads of the principal
physicians he had finished, but the greater part of the picture,
including the huge and ugly figure of the King, out of all proportion to
the other persons represented, was put in by some other and far inferior
hand. At least two of the doctors represented in this work were also
painted by him separately, _Dr. John Chambers_ (Vienna) and _Sir William
Butts_, as well as the latter’s wife.

Holbein died in the following year, 1543, carried off by the plague,
which then raged in London. The exact date of his death is not known,
but he made a hasty will on October 7, and on November 29 administration
was granted to his old friend Hans of Antwerp, the goldsmith. He was
living at the time in the parish of St. Andrew Undershaft, where he was
rated as a foreigner. He is supposed to have been buried in the Church
of St. Katherine Cree, but no record of this has been discovered. His
wife died in 1549. His eldest son Philip, “a good, well-behaved lad,”
served his apprenticeship in Paris, and finally settled in Augsburg,
founding that branch of the family upon which the Emperor Matthias
conferred a patent of nobility as the Holbeins of Holbeinsberg. His
second son James died as a goldsmith in London, while his daughters
married respectable citizens of Basle.


Holbein’s art was many-sided, although, during the latter half of his
life, he was occupied chiefly with portraiture. This was not owing to
the artist’s preference for this mode of expression, but to the fact
that there was very little demand for any other form of painting in
England. The painter of _The Meyer Madonna_ was not the man to have
abandoned the production of large religious compositions if there had
been any adequate demand for them. His few works of this nature which
remain place him in the front rank of sixteenth-century artists, and, if
he had been born on the south side of the Alps, he would have painted
sacred pictures as fine as those of any Italian cinquecentist; even
Raphael would have found in him a worthy rival.

It is an immense loss to art that all his large decorative undertakings,
and many of his most important pictures, have perished or have been
lost, so that to-day we can only judge of them by a few preliminary
studies, certain fragments of the originals which have been preserved in
museums, and, in a few cases, some early and careful copies of a reduced
size. The decorations with which he covered a number of houses in
Lucerne and Basle have all disappeared. What the weather did not ruin
the clumsy hand of the restorer and street-improver has destroyed. A
number of his sacred pictures must have perished during the artist’s
lifetime through the fury of iconoclastic mobs. Damp, dirt, and neglect
were the cause of the gradual fading away of his wall-paintings in the
interior of the Basle Town Hall. His two great allegorical works for the
decoration of the dining-hall of the Steelyard--_The Triumph of Riches_
and _The Triumph of Poverty_--have vanished, either destroyed in the
Whitehall fire of 1698 or dispersed at the sale of Charles I.’s
pictures. Some such fate seems also to have befallen the great portrait
group of _Sir Thomas More’s Family_. The great wall-painting in the
Privy Chamber in Whitehall was also destroyed by fire. Gone, too, is
_The Battle of Spurs_, which, if Mr. Nicholls is right, was painted by
our artist. Finally, death cut short the painting of the picture in the
Barber Surgeons’ Hall. Such a list of lost or ruined masterpieces is,
unhappily, not uncommon in the history of art, but Holbein has suffered
more than most men; yet enough remains from his brush to allow us to
place him among the greatest men of genius of his own or any succeeding

As already stated, he owed little to any other master than his father.
It is impossible to say to what extent he assisted the elder painter in
the series of sacred pictures now preserved in Augsburg and elsewhere in
Germany, although certain critics hold that he took a large share in the
production of _The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian_ in Munich. This picture
is the elder Holbein’s masterpiece, and in it, more than in any other of
his works, he has thrown off the German mediævalism in which he was
trained, and has emulated the newer style of the Renaissance, with its
fine flowing lines and rounded forms and its exact imitation of Nature.
It was to this German painter of repute that Holbein was indebted for
almost all the artistic training he received. His painting was not
affected to any extent by other artists except, indirectly, by the
Italians of the North; but what was talent in the father became genius
of the rarest quality in the son.


The practice of decorating both the exterior and the interior of houses
with large wall-paintings, so universal throughout Italy in the
sixteenth century, was by no means uncommon north of the Alps; but in
Germany this class of work was badly paid, and the painter employed made
use of much mechanical assistance, and did not lavish too much personal
care upon it. No other Northern artist carried out work of this nature
with such brilliancy and such success as Holbein. It is probable that
the subjects of his wall-paintings were chosen for him by his patrons to
suit their own tastes; but his fertility of imagination was so great
that his renderings of the selected themes were stamped with his
original genius. The designs were not carried out by him in a slipshod
manner, without understanding, but were masterpieces of dramatic power
and composition, and, no doubt, equally artistic in their colour

In his decorations for the house of Jacob von Hertenstein, in Lucerne,
many of the subjects were taken from ancient times. The façade was
covered with scenes from secular history, pageants, and combats of
children, in a setting of florid Renaissance architecture, an important
feature being a great triumphal procession of Cæsar, in its main lines
copied from Mantegna. In the interior the walls of the chapel were
covered with religious paintings, and the largest chamber was given up
to hunting scenes with landscape backgrounds and a representation of
_The Fountain of Youth_, with many humorous details.

There is no doubt that he decorated a number of houses in Basle in a
similar manner, though we have records of only one of them; but drawings
of several elaborately ornamented façades are preserved in various
collections, which show that he was often occupied with this kind of
work in his younger days. The most famous of these decorated buildings
was, as already stated, known as _The House of the Dance_, from a broad
frieze running across the second story, which represented a number of
peasants boisterously dancing to the music of the bagpipes. The whole
front was embellished with painted Renaissance architecture. The great
variety of subjects he included, and the elaborate details, may be
studied in a sketch preserved in the Basle Museum.

The subjects chosen for the interior decoration of the Basle Town Hall
were also from classical antiquity. Richly ornamented columns divided
the walls into a number of spaces, which were filled with paintings
representing the vital importance to a community of impartial justice.
Holbein’s subjects were _Charondas, the Lawgiver, plunging the Sword
into his own Heart_; _Zaleucus ordering his own Right Eye to be torn out
instead of his Son’s_; _Curius Dentatus sending back the Ambassadors of
the Samnites_; and _Sapor, King of Persia, using the Body of the
captured Emperor Valerian as a step from which to mount his Horse_. The
smaller panels were single figures, such as _Christ_, _David_,
_Justice_, _Wisdom_, and _Moderation_. The remaining wall in the Hall,
painted in 1530, was covered with two large Biblical subjects--_Rehoboam
dismissing the Messengers of the Israelites with fierce threats_, and
_The meeting of Samuel and Saul_, when the Prophet angrily reproves the
King for having disobeyed the command of God in sparing the Amalekites.
The original sketches for both these compositions still exist, and are
sufficient to prove how fine the completed pictures must have been. The
vehement gesture of Rehoboam is well conceived, and the composition of
the Samuel and Saul is masterly.

The two large allegorical friezes for the banquet-room of the Steelyard
merchants in London must have been equally fine. The original sketch for
_The Triumph of Riches_ (Louvre) shows how easily the genius of the
artist adapted itself to this kind of work. The figures in these two
compositions, which were done in _tempera_ on canvas, were life-size.
They soon became famous, and in 1574 were copied by Zucchero, who,
according to Carl van Mander, declared they were as fine as anything
accomplished by Raphael. Such triumphal processions as these were, of
course, a favourite method of decoration in his day, of which Mantegna’s
_Triumph of Cæsar_ was the most famous. In _The Triumph of Riches_ he
depicted Plutus, God of Wealth, seated in a car drawn by four horses,
with Fortune in front, her veil flying behind her, scattering gold among
the accompanying crowd, which is made up of many men of antiquity famous
for their wealth, luxury, or avarice. In _The Triumph of Poverty_
Poverty herself, an ancient and miserable hag, and her comrade,
Misfortune, are drawn in a poor barrow by two asses, Stupidity and
Inactivity, and two oxen, Negligence and Sloth. The vehicle is driven by
Hope, who is accompanied by Industry, Memory, and Experience, who
distribute axe or hammer, spade or flail, symbols of work, among the
poverty-stricken people who crowd round.

In all these large decorative works Holbein displayed the greatest
fertility of invention, and a power of composition of a very high order.
The sense of life and movement in all the figures, and the
appropriateness of the gestures, are alike admirable. In some of his
wall-paintings he showed a keen sense of humour; and that joy of life,
as felt by the Teuton of his day in his moments of relaxation and
merriment, is admirably expressed. There is, too, an exuberance of
invention in the architectural and ornamental details which is one of
the most striking features of this side of his art, showing how quickly
and completely he had made the new ideas of the Renaissance his own.


Holbein’s religious pictures almost all date from the earlier part of
his career, and few remain which are works of his maturity. More than
one of them perished, there is little doubt, during the stormy days of
the Reformation in Basle. His earliest known picture is a small panel of
_The Virgin and Child_, dated 1514, a work of great promise for a youth
of seventeen. It displays a real, though naïve, charm, and the tender
attitude with which the Virgin holds the Child is very attractive. She
is dressed in white, with a black cloak, and her long, fair hair falls
over her shoulders, and Holbein seems to have taken an especial delight
in the careful painting of it. This little work, tentative as it is in
many ways, gives signs that the hand which painted it was soon to become
that of a master. Other early works of a similar character are _The
Virgin Mary_ and _St. John the Evangelist_, quarter lengths, seen
against a blue background, which remained the artist’s favourite setting
for his heads throughout his life. The series of five pictures on
canvas, taken from _The Passion of Christ_, need not detain us. It is
probable that they were hastily painted for some church decoration or
religious celebration. Among the numerous designs for glass-painting
which he made in Basle, the most important is a series of ten designs
illustrating _The Passion of Christ_, each one set in a background of
elaborate architectural structure. The scenes are simply treated, but
with great dramatic power, if not with great depth of feeling. The
action in most of them is finely conceived, and many of the figures have
both dignity and beauty.

Holbein took the same subject, _The Passion of Christ_, for an
altar-piece consisting of eight small panels (Basle Museum). For more
than 200 years this work was considered to be the artist’s finest
achievement, and it was preserved in the Basle Town Hall until 1777,
when the Town Council presented it to the Museum, and had it thoroughly
restored before handing it over, with most disastrous results. The
abominably gaudy colours which were then daubed upon it have taken away
most of the charm which graced it when it first left the master’s hands.
It is still possible, however, to form some judgment of its composition,
and to see how skilfully the artist has managed the light and shade. The
eight scenes are combined in one frame in a very effective and
harmonious manner, forming one picturesque whole. Each little picture,
taken by itself, is a work of art and of real beauty. Two other panels
in the Minster of Freiburg, somewhat similar to the above in the
exceptionally successful and picturesque arrangement of the lighting,
form the wings of an altar-piece, of which the centre panel has
disappeared. They were painted for Hans Oberreidt, one of the Basle Town
Councillors, and represent _The Nativity_ and _The Adoration of the
Magi_, with the donor and the numerous members of his family kneeling
below. All the figures are small, while the backgrounds are large and
imposing. Another little work of great beauty, and important as being
the only sacred painting by Holbein now in England, is the _Noli Me
Tangere_ at Hampton Court (_see_ p. 58).

A very remarkable picture of _The Dead Christ_ (Basle) was painted in
1521. The nude body lies in a narrow tomb of marble, open at the side.
Except for the stigmata, there is very little religious signification in
it. The painful subject has been in no way idealized; it is, on the
contrary, one of the most vividly realistic paintings of a dead man ever
produced by a great painter.

The picture known as _The Solothurn Madonna_, painted in the following
year, is one of Holbein’s two finest religious paintings. It is now in
the possession of Herr Zetter, but was, no doubt, originally a
commission for the Minster of Solothurn. It represents the Virgin and
Child between St. Martin of Tours and St. Ursus. The Virgin is seated
with the Child on her knee under an open arch, and her figure stands out
against the blue sky which is seen through it. Her face is very sweet
and sympathetic. The naked Child, with its little arms stretched out, is
a delightful piece of portraiture, while the two saints are magnificent
figures. This picture, deeply reverent in feeling, is conceived with
great simplicity, but is very noble in sentiment.

_The Meyer Madonna_, in Darmstadt, Holbein’s greatest masterpiece of
religious painting, and one of the finest sacred pictures in the world,
is fully described on p. 44.


Holbein’s versatility as an artist is nowhere shown more convincingly
than in the illustrations he made for printed books, and the series of
woodcuts which were published from his designs during the last decade of
his life. His title-pages, initial letters, chapter headings, and
ornamental borders, for Froben and other printers, display a rich
invention, greatly in advance of most similar work of that period. In
some of them the artist’s sureness of hand and firmness of drawing have
been sadly blunted by the incapacity of the woodcutter. In others,
however, he was very happily associated with a cutter of real genius,
Hans Lützelburger, who had both the skill and intuition to carry out the
master’s intentions with marvellous and sympathetic accuracy. One of the
most celebrated of his title-pages is that known as _The Table of
Cebes_, representing, by means of countless little figures, the soul’s
journey through life.

But Holbein’s fame as a designer of woodcuts, which had spread
throughout Europe before the end of the sixteenth century, was based

[Illustration: _Hanfstängl photo._]



upon two celebrated series of designs, _The Dance of Death_ and his _Old
Testament Illustrations_, in which his gifts as an illustrator are most
clearly shown. _The Dance of Death_, with its forty little pictures, at
once became popular, and editions followed one after the other, with
additional illustrations. The subject was a very favourite one
throughout mediæval Europe, and in Holbein it reaches its highest
development. It is a series of short pictorial sermons, in which the
artist points out to the reader how slight and how uncertain is his hold
upon life, and how in the presence of death both Prince and peasant are
equal. In the satire with which Holbein has treated clerics of all
degrees we learn something of the way in which the Reformation
influenced him. Each little picture is a masterpiece of art, in which is
depicted, with grim humour, death’s unexpected approach, sparing neither
King nor Pontiff, Queen nor courtesan, knight nor beggar, old age nor
childhood. In each one the feeling for fine dramatic situation is
admirable, the whole being indicated in a few sure lines of masterly
draughtsmanship. Detailed accounts of each of the subjects will be found
in Dr. Woltmann’s “Holbein and His Time,” and in Chatto and Jackson’s
“History of Wood Engraving,” while Ruskin’s “Ariadne Florentina” should
be read for a very sympathetic and beautiful analysis of their
intellectual side, their spiritual meaning, and Holbein’s marvellous
power of design for such work.

In the same year, 1538, his illustrations to the Old Testament,
ninety-one in all, were also published by the brothers Trechsel. They
did not accompany an edition of the Bible, but were issued as a book of
pictures, with appropriate letter-press. They are less known than _The
Dance of Death_ woodcuts, and in them the artist has put a curb on his
fertile imagination, and confines himself to telling the sacred stories
with great simplicity and directness, while nothing essential to the
full understanding of the story is omitted.

In addition to these more important woodcuts, Holbein also designed
several series of ornamental alphabets, one of them a dance of death,
another with peasants at their merrymakings, and a third with children
at their games.


No form of art came amiss to this versatile genius. He made hundreds of
designs for jewellers and metal-workers, many of which, happily, have
been preserved, the greater part of them being now in the Basle and
British Museums. These include designs for rings, brooches, pendants,
medallions, buttons, badges, jewelled monograms, hand-mirrors,
decorative bands to be engraved upon metal, dagger handles and sheaths,
and every kind of personal ornament, and a number of larger objects,
such as cups, bowls, clocks, and similar pieces. In these, again, his
most inventive powers of design, based upon Renaissance lines, combined
with a very skilful adaptation for decorative purposes of the human
figure, place him in the forefront of sixteenth-century designers. His
most important piece of goldsmith’s work of which we know was a gold cup
of beautiful Renaissance design, known as the _Jane Seymour Cup_, the
original drawing for which is in the British Museum, and a second one in
the University Galleries at Oxford. It was undoubtedly made as a gift
from the King to the Queen, and bears their initials, together with Jane
Seymour’s motto, “Bound to obey and serve.” Benvenuto Cellini never
accomplished anything finer in cinquecento ornament than this. In the
beauty of his design, with its more restrained taste, Holbein equalled
the famous Italian craftsman. Another beautiful design for a clock, in
which the nude figures of boys are admirably introduced, was completed
for Sir Anthony Denny, who presented it to the King on the New Year’s
Day immediately following the artist’s death.

In his younger days, when in Basle, he made many admirable designs for
stained and painted glass windows, some with sacred subjects, already
mentioned, others with armorial bearings, and in several the figures of
armed soldiers, with their picturesque costumes, are introduced with
excellent effect.

Among the many drawings by him which have been preserved there are
several examples of architecture, of which the most important is a
drawing of a large fireplace and chimney-piece, decorated with the
Royal Arms and of very elaborate Renaissance design (British Museum),
but whether it was actually carried out is uncertain. Several
architectural works have been attributed to him, such as the old
Whitehall Gateway, now demolished, the so-called “Holbein Porch” and
lodge at Wilton, the carved capitals in the More Chapel at Chelsea, and
a ceiling in Whitehall, mentioned very vaguely by Samuel Pepys. It is
almost certain that he had nothing whatever to do with these, although
his fertility in the invention of architectural details for the
backgrounds of his pictures and woodcuts was so great that possibly he
wanted only an opportunity to attempt more serious architectural work,
as was the custom of many Italian artists, who built as well as painted.


It was, however, as a portrait painter that Holbein’s genius reached its
highest manifestations. In portraiture he stands side by side with the
greatest. That so considerable a part of his time was given up to this
branch of art was no doubt owing to environment, although his stupendous
gifts in this direction were born in him, and were bound to come to the
front. The Reformation in Switzerland brought his paintings of
altar-pieces to an abrupt conclusion, and in England he found no demand
for sacred art, but, on the other hand, a splendid field for portrait
painting, of which he availed himself to the utmost; and he has left a
series of lifelike representations of the illustrious men and women of
Henry VIII.’s reign of more value, both historically and as absolutely
faithful representations of the people depicted, than even the similar
series painted by Van Dyck at the Court of Charles I., or by Reynolds
and Gainsborough under George II. and George III., and even wider in its
range of subjects than Velasquez accomplished in Philip’s service. The
magical brush of the artist has pictured for us, with a living realism,
many members of the royal House of Tudor, high prelates of the Church,
leading statesmen, soldiers and sailors, men of learning and of science,
leaders of fashion, country gentlemen and their wives, German and
English merchants, foreign diplomatists, and plain citizens.

One of the greatest artistic treasures in this country is the series of
drawings of heads at Windsor Castle, the preliminary studies Holbein
made before painting his portraits, and, slight as many of them are,
themselves most vivid portraits, in which, with wonderful swiftness yet
sureness of touch, he has given us not only an accurate likeness, but
also the character which lies behind the face-mask, allowing us to look
into the inmost thoughts of each sitter, and so to fathom the invisible
by the aid of his acute penetration, which is of far higher value than
mere accurate delineation of features, and is the crowning quality of
all really great portraiture.

In all his completed portraits he spared no pains over the painting of
accessories and details, and in some of them he carried this to as fine
a finish as any Dutchman or Fleming ever accomplished. What could be
finer than the various objects scattered about the office of the
Steelyard merchant, _Georg Gisze_ (Berlin), or the ornaments and
embroideries, silks, satins, and furs of the dresses in such portraits
as those of _Archbishop Wareham_ (Louvre), _Jane Seymour_ (Vienna),
_Anne of Cleves_ (Louvre), _Charles de Solier, Comte de Morette_
(Dresden), _The Ambassadors_ (National Gallery), or the _Duke of
Norfolk_ (Windsor)? Yet the fine execution of all this elaborate detail
is soon overlooked, and attention is fixed solely upon the portrait
itself, in which, without any apparent effort on the part of the artist,
the very man stands out before us exactly as he looked when in the
flesh, with no flattering or softening of harsh features, and with his
character, and the thoughts which he imagined were hidden from the
painter, laid bare for our inspection.

Holbein produces this effect of truth and this revelation of character
by what appear to be the simplest methods, which yet are in reality most
subtle and most profound. He puts but little of himself into his
portraits, and almost everything of his sitter. No great subtleties of
light and shade are brought in to aid the artistic result; and even
colour, delightful and harmonious in a high degree as Holbein’s colour
always is, is not allowed to usurp the attention from the purpose of the
work, the complete realization of both the outward and inner man. What
at the first glance seems almost an unnatural flatness in his painting
of a face displays upon examination the most delicate and accurate
modelling of form. His keenness of observation was extraordinary. He
constantly noted the slight difference in the shape of two sides of a
face, and that a man’s eyes were not always of the same size,
characteristics which even the best artists have sometimes failed to
see. His painting of hair and of beards displays a marvellous fidelity
to nature, and his drawing of hands, and the expression he puts into
them, is extraordinary. In the painting of eyes, too, and mouth he is
most expressive. The hands of _Erasmus_ in the Louvre and at Longford
Castle, of _Wareham_ and _Anne of Cleves_ in the Louvre, are instances
of this; and the eyes of _Southwell_ (Uffizi), and of _Cheseman_
(Hague), and both eyes, hands, and mouth of the _Duchess of Milan_
(National Gallery).

He is seen at his best as a portrait painter in the _Duchess of Milan_
(_see illustration, and p. 54_); _Count Morette_; Jacob Meyer and his
family in the Madonna picture at Darmstadt (_see illustration, and p.
44_); _Erasmus_ at Longford Castle (_see illustration, and p. 50_) and
in the Louvre; _Georg Gisze_ (_see illustration, and p. 51_); the
portrait of an unknown man with a long beard, formerly belonging to Sir
J. E. Millais, at Berlin; the portraits of three unknown young men, all
dated 1541, at Vienna, the Hague, and Berlin; _The Ambassadors_; _The
Two Godsalves_ at Dresden; his own wife and children at Basle; and the
_Anne of Cleves_, _Robert Cheseman_ (_see illustration, and p. 56_),
and _Richard Southwell_ already mentioned; while among his earliest
portraits those of _Bonifacius Amerbach_, and _Jacob Meyer and His Wife_
on one panel, both in Basle, should be carefully studied. A number of
others might be mentioned, but these are sufficient to establish his
right to the title of a great master.

Holbein’s method of work seems to have remained the same throughout his
life. It was his custom to make a preliminary study of the head on
paper, fixing with unerring accuracy the features of the sitter, and
making notes as to the colour or the details of the ornaments to be
introduced at the side of the drawing, and for the rest relying almost
entirely upon his memory, which must have been singularly retentive. In
this way he could accomplish much without fatiguing his patrons with a
number of sittings. Occasionally, by the use of colour and more careful
and elaborate drawing, he carried such preliminary studies much further,
until they were finished portraits in themselves. Others, again, are
only hasty outlines, but displaying the hand of a master. They were
executed in charcoal and black and red chalk, the eyes, hair, and hand
being often drawn in their proper colours. Some are strengthened in the
outlines with the brush and Indian ink, while in others the whole face
has been modelled with the brush with the greatest delicacy. In some
cases he fixed the preliminary drawing upon a panel, and then painted
the finished portrait over it.

Unlike that of Dürer, the one other really great German painter,
Holbein’s art bears no traces of mediævalism, either in form, in method,
or in thought. He was in every way a child of the Renaissance, and so
was essentially modern, as we understand the term to-day. For this
reason the forms in which he expresses himself require no explanation or
preliminary training for their full comprehension, but are immediately
intelligible to us. The great Franconian, Albert Dürer, was steeped in
the spirit of mediævalism, a dreamer of dreams, full of philosophical
theories and spiritual speculation, and his work fired with a passion
which Holbein’s lacked; whereas the great Swabian was before all things
a serene painter, lacking strong artistic passions. He loved Nature
simply and for herself, and had the keenest vision for her manifold
beauties down to the minutest details, and was filled with the delight
of life and joy of the world around him, without troubling himself
greatly about theological questions. That he was at heart on the side of
the Reformation is shown in many of his woodcut illustrations, but his
share in the controversy is marked by none of the violence which
characterized the eager partisans on either side.

Sir Frederic Leighton, speaking of these two painters in his address to
the Royal Academy students in 1893, notes the most striking differences
between them in a few admirable sentences. He says of Holbein: “As a
draughtsman he displayed a flow, a fulness of form, and an almost
classic restraint which are wanting in the work of Dürer, and are,
indeed, not found elsewhere in German art. As a colourist he had a keen
sense of the values of tone relations, a sense in which Dürer again was
lacking; not so Teutonic in every way as the Nuremberg master, he formed
a link between the Italian and German races. A less powerful personality
than Dürer, he was a far superior painter. Proud may that country be
indeed that counts two names so great in art.”

It is an almost impossible task to sum up in a short paragraph the
leading characteristics of Holbein’s art. In his great decorative
wall-paintings he rivalled many of the best Italian painters of the
Renaissance. In the depth of expression in his portraits, and his power
of rendering character and grasping the hidden thoughts of his sitter,
he is worthy of a place by Leonardo da Vinci. In his religious paintings
he reached at least once, in _The Meyer Madonna_, the level upon which
Raphael stood, and had his surroundings been different he would have
attained signal success as a painter of sacred compositions. He
attempted no great subtleties of chiaroscuro, nor sought to rival his
Italian contemporaries in the magnificence of their colour; but his
colour is always most harmonious, and both in design and style he was

In his most important designs for metal-workers he is equal to
Benvenuto, that most inspired and artistic of swashbucklers, and with
more restraint in the handling of his theme, but no less invention. With
the exception of Dürer, no artist of the cinquecento produced such
admirable designs for woodcuts and book illustrations. In his
preliminary drawings for his portraits the insight, the ease of
draughtsmanship, the force united with the greatest delicacy, and the
freedom from all traces of mannerism, unite to make them--as seen at
Windsor, Basle, Berlin, and elsewhere--one of the most complete and
valuable series of documents of the history of the first half of the
sixteenth century we possess to-day. Possibly the greatest side of his
genius is to be found in his penetrative power into the very souls of
his sitters, and the revelation of true character which was the
consequence of it. This keen insight, aided by a manipulative skill of a
very rare quality, combined to make him one of the great masters of the
world. Ruskin’s judgment of him, when comparing him with Sir Joshua
Reynolds, may be fitly quoted in conclusion. He says: “The work of
Holbein is true and thorough, accomplished in the highest, as the most
literal, sense, with a calm entireness of unaffected resolution which
sacrifices nothing, forgets nothing, and fears nothing. Holbein is
complete; what he sees, he sees with his whole soul; what he paints, he
paints with his whole might.”


Among the many splendid portraits which Holbein painted it is difficult
to make a selection for the purpose of illustration. _The Meyer Madonna_
has been included as his finest religious painting and his most
celebrated work. Although the _Portrait of the Duchess of Milan_ and
_The Ambassadors_ are now in the National Gallery, and so are accessible
to all, they have been reproduced, because the first is in many ways the
best portrait, and certainly the most fascinating Holbein ever
accomplished, while the second is the most important work of the master
now remaining in England. The other portraits reproduced in this book
are all in their way masterpieces of portraiture, and the _Noli Me
Tangere_, at Hampton Court, is of interest as the only sacred picture by
him which is now in this country.

       *       *       *       *       *

_The Meyer Madonna_ in the old schloss of Darmstadt, belonging to the
Grand Duke of Hesse, is one of the great sacred pictures of the world.
It represents the Burgomaster of Basle, Jacob Meyer, and his family
kneeling in adoration at the feet of the Virgin Mary, who stands in an
architectural niche of red marble and gray stone, with a shell-shaped
canopy over her head. Her dress is blue, but the darkening of the
varnish has given it a greenish hue, with a bright red girdle and a
large mantle, which is spread out protectingly over the donors. She is
placed upon no isolated throne, but stands among the Meyer family, as
though to protect them from evil. The Divine Child in her arms leans
back with His head against her breast, while His left hand is stretched
out over the suppliants as though in benediction. On one side Meyer
kneels, his hands clasped in prayer, gazing fervently upwards, while his
young son is occupied in supporting a little naked child who stands in
the front. On the other side kneel the women-folk, with the daughter,
Anna, nearest the spectator, her golden head-dress elaborately
embroidered with pearls. Next to her is her mother, Meyer’s second wife,
Dorothea Kannegiesser, and nearest the Virgin a third woman, who may be
either his first wife, Magdalen Bär, or Magdalen’s daughter by a
previous marriage. All are kneeling on a richly coloured Turkish carpet.
The figures are about three-quarters the size of life. The colour of the
whole is rich, subdued, and very fine.

The Dresden Gallery possesses a very fine copy of this picture, with
certain alterations, which, until the two pictures were exhibited side
by side in 1871, was considered by most critics to be the original work.
It is now acknowledged to be only a skilful copy, probably done about
one hundred years later, when Meyer’s descendants sold the picture to
an Amsterdam dealer about 1626. Certain alterations have been made by
the copyist in the hope of improving the picture. In the original the
head of the Virgin comes too near to the top of the niche, and this has
been remedied, and he has tried to improve and beautify Mary’s somewhat
thick-set figure, resulting in a lack of natural force and a weak
idealization which Holbein himself would have scorned. The happy-looking
Child of the Darmstadt picture has been copied so badly and with so
unhappy an expression that it has been thought to represent a sick
child, and it is probably owing to this that a number of fanciful
interpretations have been given of the hidden meaning of the picture.
Both in colour and in effect the copy in no way equals the original,
which is in all ways a picture of noble simplicity, splendid colour, and
striking veracity of portraiture. The Darmstadt picture was painted
about 1526. Meyer was a banker and money-changer, and during the
struggles of the Reformation remained a staunch Catholic, and no doubt
ordered this altar-piece as an outward sign of the faith that was in

For reasons already mentioned a number of suggestions, more or less
improbable, have been made as to the inner meaning of the painting. It
has been suggested that it is a votive picture to commemorate the
recovery of a sick child. This idea is carried still further by others,
who say that the infant in the Madonna’s arms is the soul of a dead
child, while a third interpretation is that it


_Hanfstängl photo._]      [_National Gallery._


is the soul of the woman kneeling next to the Virgin, who is supposed to
have recently died. Other explanations have been given, but they are all
sentimental refinements of modern German criticism, first voiced by
Tieck and Schlegel, which might not have occurred to them if they had
studied the original instead of the copy. Ruskin was on the side of the
sentimentalists. He says (_Cornhill Magazine_, 1860): “The received
tradition respecting the Holbein Madonna is beautiful, and I believe the
interpretation to be true. A father and mother have prayed to her for
the life of their sick child. She appears to them, her own Child in her
arms. She puts down her Christ before them, takes their child into her
arms instead; it lies down upon her bosom, and stretches its hands to
its father and mother, saying farewell.” The simplest explanation, and
the most probable, is that it is merely an ordinary picture of Virgin
and Child with the donors in adoration, and it is splendid enough in its
simplicity without the need of any refined subtleties added to it by
Teutonic sentimentalists.

       *       *       *       *       *

The picture popularly known as _The Ambassadors_, formerly in the
collection of the Earl of Radnor at Longford Castle, was purchased for
the nation in 1890. Until that year the left-hand figure was always
supposed to represent Sir Thomas Wyatt, poet and diplomatist, and his
companion some unknown friend and fellow Ambassador, who, Dr. Woltmann
suggested, was John Leland. When the picture was first exhibited in the
National Gallery many suggestions were made as to their real identity,
the most important being that of Mr. W. F. Dickes, who wrote several
long articles to prove that they were the German Counts Palatine Otto
Henry and his brother Philip, and that the picture represented “The
Nuremberg Treaty of Religious Freedom between the Catholics and
Protestants.” Happily, the matter was settled in 1895 by Miss Mary F. S.
Hervey, who discovered documentary evidence of so exact a kind that no
doubt remains that the portraits are those of Jean de Dinteville,
seigneur de Polizy, bailly de Troyes, and a knight of the French Order
of St. Michael, and his friend, George de Selve, Bishop of Lavaur. Mr.
Dickes, however, has recently returned to the charge (1901), doubts the
evidence, and still pins his faith to his Counts Palatine.

Dinteville came here as French Ambassador more than once, and was in
London in that capacity from February to November, 1533, the year in
which the picture was painted, and during that time De Selve paid him a
visit. George de Selve was appointed to the see of Lavaur in 1526, when
only eighteen, but was not consecrated Bishop until 1534, and so in the
picture is not shown in episcopal dress. He was one of six brothers,
nearly all of whom gained distinction as Ambassadors. He himself served
as Ambassador on a number of occasions, and his piety, his profound
learning, and his keen interest in all intellectual pursuits, as Miss
Hervey tells us in her exhaustive study of these two men and their
picture, made him one of the most remarkable men of his day.

The two men stand on each side of a high, two-shelved table. Dinteville,
on the left, is gorgeously dressed in a doublet of rose satin, with a
black jacket and surcoat lined with ermine. His dark hair is cut
straight across his forehead. De Selve, on the right, is clad in a long
brocaded gown of chocolate colour, lined with brown fur. His hair and
beard are also dark. Both shelves of the table are covered with a number
of books, mathematical, musical, and other instruments, including a
celestial and a terrestrial globe, sundial, lute, flutes, and other
emblems of the pursuits in which they were interested. The curious
object in the foreground is merely a distorted skull, which, when looked
at from the side, assumes its proper proportions--a kind of optical
puzzle, which had some vogue in the sixteenth century. The pattern of
the pavement of coloured marbles was copied by the artist from the one
in the Sanctuary of Westminster Abbey.

The many details of the picture have been painted with Holbein’s usual
accuracy and perfection. The faces of the two men are finely and
delicately modelled, though their character is not quite so subtly
expressed as in such a portrait as the _Duchess of Milan_. The dark,
penetrating eyes and well-chiselled mouth of Dinteville give vitality to
his intellectual face. De Selve is grave in contrast, with dark eyebrows
and a more pallid complexion, and his countenance has less expression
than is to be found in the other. The nobility of type of these two
well-born, intellectual men is, however, admirably depicted by Holbein
in a picture which is splendid both in colour and in treatment.

       *       *       *       *       *

Holbein seems to have painted Erasmus three or four times, and as the
originals were multiplied by copyists during the artist’s life, there
are still a large number of portraits of the great scholar in existence,
all to-day ascribed to our painter. At least two of them were sent to
England by Erasmus as presents to Sir Thomas More and Archbishop
Wareham, one of which was the picture now at Longford Castle, and the
other the fine profile in the Louvre, which was formerly in Charles I.’s

The Earl of Radnor’s _Erasmus_ is a masterly and lifelike portrait. It
forms a companion picture to the portrait of Peter Ægidius, by Quentin
Matsys, also at Longford. For a long time both pictures were thought to
be by the latter painter, as in 1517 these two learned men commissioned
Matsys to paint a double portrait of them, which was sent as a present
to Sir Thomas More.

Erasmus is represented in his black doctor’s robes, heavily trimmed with
fur, and a black cap. His hands rest upon a book, bearing the
inscription, partly in Greek and partly in Latin, “The Herculean labours
of Erasmus of Rotterdam.” A curtain is behind his head, and on the left
a stone pillar carved with fine Renaissance design. On the right a
number of books are placed upon


_Gray photo._]      [_Longford Castle._


[_By special permission of the Earl of Radnor._]]

a small shelf, and on one of the volumes is the date 1523, and a
half-effaced Latin distich, in which Holbein’s name can still be read.
The philosopher, turned slightly to the left, is gazing in front of him,
deep in thought.

Mr. Claude Phillips has admirably described this picture (_Art Journal_,
April, 1897). He says: “Holbein has rarely painted with a more exquisite
subtlety or a firmer grip of his subject than here. The modelling of the
head and hands is perfect in its searching truth and fine balance,
showing none of that exaggeration and hardness of facial detail which so
often mars the pictorial and obscures the intellectual conceptions in
the portraits of Albrecht Dürer. Bodily suffering and advancing age have
a little extinguished physical energy, but yet the great scholar of
Rotterdam appears here surely but undemonstratively portrayed in his
true character. He was the chief representative of the broader humanism
in the Reformation, the one man able to look calmly at the world as it
was--able to weigh, to judge, but also to show toleration--that is,
provided his own comfort and security were not thereby interfered with.”

The Louvre example, showing Erasmus writing, in profile, is smaller and
richer in colour than the Longford example, and even more searching in
its rendering of truth and character.

       *       *       *       *       *

The superb portrait of _Georg Gisze_, member of the Hanse League and the
London Steelyard, painted in 1532, shortly after Holbein’s return to
England, and now in the Berlin Gallery, is finer in its colour and more
delicate in the rendering of its details than any other of the Steelyard
portraits done by the artist about this time. It is almost Flemish in
the minuteness and care of its finish and its clear colour, and seems to
have had unusual pains bestowed upon it, perhaps as a kind of show-piece
to tempt other sitters.

The young merchant is shown in his office, behind a table covered with a
cloth of Eastern design, with the various objects that he requires in
his business scattered in front of him and about the room. Among them is
a graceful Venetian glass holding carnations. Papers and letters are
fastened to the walls, one of which he is just opening, upon which can
be read the address: “To the honourable Georg Gisze, my brother, in
London, England.” On the wall hangs a paper with his motto: “Nulla sine
merore voluptas.” He has fair hair, and is dressed in red, with black
cap and overcoat, and a white shirt with a collar of Spanish work. All
the accessories, whether of silk, or linen, or gold, or steel, or glass,
are painted with a fidelity to nature never excelled by the Dutchmen or
Flemings of the following century, who devoted their whole career to the
rendering of still-life. In Holbein’s work, however, this elaboration of
detail is soon forgotten in the fascination which the vivid
representation of the sitter’s personality produces in the spectator and
the power displayed by the artist in seizing the essentials of a


_Hanfstängl photo._]      [_Berlin._


Ruskin has described this portrait for us in words so eloquent and so
glowing (_Cornhill Magazine_, March, 1860) that no excuse is needed for
quoting a sentence or two here: “Every accessory is perfect with a fine
perfection: the carnations in the glass vase by his side; the ball of
gold, chased with blue enamel, suspended on the wall; the books, the
steelyard, the papers on the table, the seal-ring with its quartered
bearings--all intensely there, and there in beauty of which no one could
have dreamed that even flowers or gold were capable, far less parchment
or steel. But every change of shade is felt, every rich and rubied line
of petal followed, every subdued gleam in the soft blue of the enamel
and bending of the gold touched with a hand whose patience of regard
creates rather than paints. The jewel itself was not so precious as the
rays of enduring light which form it, beneath that errorless hand. The
man himself what he was--not more; but to all conceivable proof of
sight, in all aspect of life or thought--not less. He sits alone in his
accustomed room, his common work laid out before him; he is conscious of
no presence, assumes no dignity, bears no sudden or superficial look of
care or interest, lives only as he lived--but for ever. It is
inexhaustible. Every detail of it wins, retains, rewards the attention
with a continually increasing sense of wonderfulness. It is also wholly
true. So far as it reaches, it contains the absolute facts of colour,
form, and character, rendered with an unaccusable faithfulness.”

According to Dr. Woltmann, Gisze belonged to a family residing in the
neighbourhood of Basle, and even to-day, in the small adjacent town of
Liestall, the name, in the form of Gysin, is to be seen over many
houses. Even on the picture it is spelt in more ways than one. Miss
Hervey considers it to be a variation of the surname Gueiss, one of the
most distinguished in the annals of the Steelyard, and well known in
Cologne. Georg Gisze was deputy Alderman of the Steelyard in 1533.

       *       *       *       *       *

Shortly after the death of Queen Jane Seymour, in October, 1537, the
Privy Council began to urge the King to marry again. The lady chosen was
Christina, niece of the Emperor Charles V., daughter of the King of
Denmark, and the young widow of Francesco Maria Sforza, last Duke of
Milan, whom she married in 1534, when she was only eleven. He died in
the following year, and in 1538 she was residing in Brussels at the
Court of her aunt, the Regent of the Netherlands. Holbein, as “a man
very excellent in taking phisanymies,” was sent over to paint her
portrait, and arrived there on March 10, accompanied by Sir Philip
Hobby. A long letter to Cromwell from John Hutton, English Envoy to
Flanders, gives us full details of this expedition. The lady’s portrait
had just been painted by some local artist, and despatched to Cromwell,
on the eve of Holbein’s arrival. When Hutton, however, saw the likeness
which the latter produced in the space of three hours, which he
considered “very perffight,” he sent a messenger in haste to stay the
delivery of the other, telling Cromwell that it was but “sloberid” in
comparison. Holbein probably made one of his usual black-and-white
crayon studies touched with colour, and from this, after his return to
London, painted the full-length portrait belonging to the Duke of
Norfolk, which he has lent so generously for a number of years to the
National Gallery.

Christina stands, almost the size of life, facing the spectator, dressed
in “mourning aparel after the manner of Italy”--a black satin gown, and
over it a long black cloak lined with yellow sable. A black hood covers
her hair and part of her forehead, and a ruby ring is her only ornament.
You cannot call her very beautiful, but her expression is fascinating in
the highest degree. It is painted with the utmost simplicity and
directness, and yet is stamped with real grandeur of style in every
delicate stroke of the brush. Her slender form (“She is of taller
stature than either of us,” wrote the Ambassadors Wriothesley and
Vaughan) is admirably rendered, and Holbein, in the spirit of a true
artist, has chosen to depict her in all the severity of her widow’s
weeds, rather than in the bravery of the Brussels court lady, thus
giving an added effect to her sweet childish countenance, which is
modelled in the most masterly fashion. Her dark eyes, from under fair
eyebrows, seem to admit one to her most secret thoughts, and the red
lips are full of expression. The flesh tints are unusually transparent,
and a faint rosy glow of health just flushes her cheeks. “She is not so
white as the late Queen,” says Hutton, “but she hath a singular good
countenance, and when she chanceth to smile there appeareth two pits in
her cheeks and one in her chin, the which becomith her excellently well.
She is higher than the Regent, a goodly personage of body and competent
of beauty, of favour excellent, soft of speech, and very gentle in
countenance.” It is an exquisite portrait, and one of the most precious
in the country.

For some reason, probably the Papal excommunication of Henry, the
Emperor suddenly became hostile to this alliance, and the negotiations
were broken off. She herself seems to have been not unwilling to become
an English Queen. Sir Thomas Wyatt reported that she was somewhat
flighty, but Hutton, on the other hand, mentions “her honest
countenance, and the few words she wisely spoke.” The popular tradition
runs that she sent a respectfully sarcastic refusal to Henry, saying
that “she had but one head; if she had two, one of them should be at His
Majesty’s service.” She married Francis, Duke of Lorraine and Bar, in

       *       *       *       *       *

One of the best of Holbein’s portraits of English commoners is that of
_Robert Cheseman_ in the Hague Gallery, which was formerly in the royal
collections of England. With his usual directness and faultless mastery
of handling, he has given us here another example of exact portraiture,
illuminated by a deep insight into


_Hanfstängl photo._      [_The Hague._


character. Cheseman, who is forty-eight, wears a silk doublet of
purplish-red, with the customary black overcoat trimmed with fur. His
curly hair is beginning to turn gray. He holds a hooded hawk on his
gloved left hand, and strokes its feathers with his right. The bird is
splendidly painted, and the keen, piercing eyes and clean-cut face of
its master are wonderfully rendered. Sir Joshua Reynolds, who noted it
during his travels in Holland, speaks of it as “admirable for its truth
and precision, and extremely well coloured.”

This picture is called erroneously in all the books “Henry VIII.’s
Falconer,” but he was a person of much more importance. Robert Cheseman,
of Dormanswell, near Norwood, in Middlesex, and Northcote, in Essex, was
a man of wealth, and one of the leading commoners of his county. He was
born in 1485, son and heir of Edward Cheseman, Cofferer and Keeper of
the Wardrobe to Henry VII., and succeeded to the family estates in 1517.
He was made a Justice of the Peace for Middlesex in 1528, and during his
life served on a number of commissions for collecting tithes, subsidies,
and so on. In 1530 he was one of the commissioners on an inquiry into
the possessions of Thomas Wolsey after he was attainted, and was on the
Grand Jury at the trials of Sir Geoffrey Pole and others (1538), and
Thomas Culpeper and Francis Dereham for treason (1541). He was one of
the gentlemen selected to welcome Anne of Cleves when she first landed
in England, and was, in fact, one of some half-dozen men of position who
represented Middlesex on such public occasions. In 1536 he supplied
thirty men for the army against the Northern rebels, so that he must
have been a man of substance. He married Alice, daughter of Henry
Dacres, of Mayfield, Staffordshire, a Merchant Tailor and Alderman of
London. These curtailed biographical notes are inserted here, as they
have not been previously published.

       *       *       *       *       *

A small work of great beauty in Hampton Court Palace, representing _Mary
Magdalen at the Sepulchre_, sometimes called _Noli Me Tangere_, is of
unusual value to English students, as being the only sacred painting by
Holbein now in this country. It has darkened greatly with age, and has
suffered other damage, but is considered by most judges to be an
undoubted original by the master, although Dr. Woltmann attributed it to
Bartholomew Bruyn, of Cologne.

Both in treatment and in feeling this picture is very similar to the
altar-piece of the Passion, in eight compartments, in the Basle Museum,
and must have been painted about the same time, between 1520 and 1527.
In sentiment it is one of the most poetical of Holbein’s compositions,
and an admirable example of his rendering of light and shade in his
first Basle period. “The early morning when it was yet dark” is most
successfully suggested in the painting of the landscape background. Dawn
is just breaking over the sky and distant Calvary, while the foreground
is still in darkness, except for the light which radiates from the open
sepulchre, where


_Hanfstängl photo._]      [_Hampton Court._


(_Also called_ NOLI ME TANGERE.)]

the two angels can be seen seated at the head and the foot of the empty
grave. Mary, who holds a cup of spikenard in her left hand, has turned
round hastily in eager surprise, and stretches out her right hand
towards the Saviour. Our Lord draws back from her, saying, “Touch Me
not!” The dramatic action of the two figures is most expressive. In the
background the two disciples, who have been before her at the sepulchre,
are seen hastening away. Peter, still dubious as to the truth of the
Resurrection, is talking eagerly and with animated gestures as he
expresses his doubts; but John, who “saw and believed,” turns back his
head in reproach at a comrade who can doubt even for a moment. The
composition, as a whole, is marked by a simple but impressive dignity.

       *       *       *       *       *

It seems almost certain that the first portrait painted by Holbein in
England was that of _Sir Thomas More_. Mr. Huth’s finished portrait, a
half-length of the Chancellor, is dated 1527. There are two studies for
More’s head among the Windsor drawings almost identical. They are
life-size, three-quarter face, looking to the right, with black cap and
fur collar, done with black and red chalk. The drawing reproduced here
is 16 inches high by 12 inches wide, and has been pricked for tracing.
Holbein sketched the members of the More family on a larger scale than
was usual with him, and all these drawings were preliminary studies for
the large family group now lost, or hidden under the paint of some
feebler contemporary artist in the Nostell Priory version of the
picture. In these two drawings, in Mr. Huth’s portrait, and in the large
sketch for the family group now at Basle, Sir Thomas is represented in
the same position, so that it is probable he only gave one sitting to
the artist.

This drawing is masterly, and is a splendid example of how easily
Holbein seized upon the leading characteristics of a face and with a few
swift strokes fixed them for our admiration for ever. In his youth More
had been handsome, and, according to Erasmus, was of a fair complexion,
with dark-brown hair and gray eyes. His firmly-compressed lips and his
penetrating glance give to his face a sternness which he seldom
displayed, except in his detestation of heretics; but fine judgment and
nobility of feeling, and that mental harmony which springs from inward
peace, are the leading characteristics in his face as the artist has
drawn it for us here. One can see at a glance that here was a man who
would always be just in his dealings with others, and unchangeable in
carrying out what he knew to be his duty--a student and a man of deep
learning, and yet a man of affairs and of the world, trusted by his King
and admired by his equals, and losing his head on the block through his
invincible honesty. Erasmus well said of him: “He possesses that
beautiful ease of mind, or, still better, that piety and prudence, with
which he joyfully adapts himself to everything that comes, as though it
were the best that could come.”

[Illustration: _Colls photo._]

[_Windsor Castle._


[_From a drawing._]]









A small panel, showing head and hands only, possibly an earlier study
than the full-length belonging to the Duke of Norfolk.



Small bust, partly repainted. There is a replica in Prague.



(See illustration and p. 58.)



(See illustration and p. 47.)


(See illustration and p. 54.)



Holbein’s last work, left unfinished.



Replica of the picture in the Louvre, and formerly in the Magniac





A small half-length; there is a copy of it at Woburn Abbey.


A very fine portrait, probably of an Englishman.


A small half-length of a very old man. Chamber’s portrait in the Barber
Surgeons’ picture is one of the few heads in that work in which the hand
of Holbein can now be traced.


With an elaborate head-dress. Small half-length.



Two small rounds on canvas; portraits of some English courtier and his
wife, the man in a scarlet coat, with the letters H.R. embroidered in




A replica of the portrait in Lambeth Palace.

SIR HENRY WYATT, 1527 OR 1528.

The father of Sir Thomas Wyatt, the poet. Formerly called a portrait of
Sir Thomas More. There is a replica of it in the National Gallery of


Profile, turned to the left, writing. The oil-study for it is in the
Basle Museum. Probably sent to England for More or Wareham, and
exchanged by Charles I. with Louis XIII. for a _St. John Baptist_, by


A replica of the portrait in the Uffizi Gallery, but not so good.
Another copy was exhibited by Mr. H. E. Chetwynd-Stapylton at South
Kensington, 1866.


Henry VIII.’s Royal Astronomer.





(See illustration and p. 51.)


Said to be a member of the Trelawney family, and perhaps a brother of
the young man whose portrait, dated 1532, is in Count Schönborn’s
Collection, Vienna.


Formerly in the possession of Sir J. E. Millais, P.R.A. Painted about
1535 (?).


Probably a Dutchman, of the Vos van Steenwijk family.



Much repainted.




Two panels, evidently parts of an altar-piece, one of them dated 1522.
Some critics doubt the ascription, but they may have been designed by
Holbein and completed by some other painter.



(See illustration and p. 44.)


Dated and signed “H. H.”



Two portraits on one panel. There is a fine drawing of Sir John in the
Windsor collection.



A copy, with alterations, of the Darmstadt picture. (See p. 45.)

The Dresden Gallery also possesses copies of Erasmus and Henry VIII.,
after Holbein, and a picture, _The Death of Virginia_, said to be after
some lost original.






Altar-panels, painted for Hans Oberriedt, of Basle.



Half-length, life size. Other portraits of the Prince in the possession
of the Duke of Northumberland (Syon House) and the Earl of Yarborough.


A small round, being a companion portrait to the small round of Erasmus
at Basle, both probably painted about 1530.



A small oval, about 3 inches high, and seen slightly more in profile
than the portrait of Born in Windsor Castle.




(See illustration and p. 56.)


This splendid portrait is most likely that of an Englishman.


There is only one undoubted example in Italy, and that is the fine
portrait of Sir Richard Southwell in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, of
which there is a replica in the Louvre.


The single work by Holbein in Spain is a portrait of an old man, with an
unusually large nose and a very ruddy face, which is in the Prado
Gallery, Madrid. It appears to have been painted during Holbein’s first
visit to England.




This is the earliest known work of Holbein’s, and was found in a village
near Constance. Probably painted during his journey from Augsburg to



Heads only. Two early works.


Five Scenes from Christ’s Passion, part of a series painted for some
temporary purpose, such as the decoration of a church during Holy Week.


A board painted on both sides, representing the schoolmaster and his
wife teaching pupils, and now split into two halves.




Heads only; oil on paper.


Until recently in Lord Northbrook’s Collection, and now attributed in
Basle to Ambrose Holbein.


The side portions are missing. Broken up and badly restored in
Amerbach’s time, and again restored and badly repainted at a later date.



In coloured crayons. It is not absolutely certain that this fine
portrait represents the painter himself.



In profile, writing. A study in oils for the portrait in the Louvre.


This is a copy only.


An altar-piece of eight small panels in one frame.



Two small oil-paintings in monochrome as a diptych.


In monochrome. Formerly in Basle Minster. Figures of the Emperor Henry
II. and his wife on one, and the Virgin and Child with Bishop Pantalus
on the other.





A small roundel, from which the Parma portrait was probably painted. It
is a companion work to the Melancthon at Hanover.



Done for the wedding of Hans Bär, in Basle. Decorated with pictures of
the amusing legend of St. Nobody, blamed in all households as the real
cause of all accidents; and letters, a pair of spectacles, and other
objects on the top, with the intention of deceiving the spectator.


Holbein undoubtedly painted a number of miniatures, but very few of
these remain, although many are ascribed to him. Among the best are
those of the two sons of the Duke of Suffolk, Henry and Charles Brandon,
Catherine Howard, and Lady Audley, all at Windsor; others of Henry VIII.
and Jane Seymour, belonging to the Seymour family; and a portrait of
Holbein in the Wallace Collection.

The finest collections of drawings are those in Windsor Castle and the
Basle and British Museums. Some good designs for jewellery will be found
at Chatsworth.


    1497.    Born in Augsburg.

    1514.    Left Augsburg. Date of his first known

    1515.    Settled in Basle with his brother Ambrose.

    1517.    Living in Lucerne. Visited Altdorf.

    1518.    Painted Hertenstein’s house in Lucerne.

    1519.    Back in Basle. Admitted to the Painters

    1520.    Paid his fees as a burgher of Basle.

    1521-22. Decorated the interior of new Town Hall.

    1526.    Painted _The Meyer Madonna_ about this
               time. Left Basle, and reached England
               before the end of the year.

    1528.    Returned to Basle in the summer, and
               bought a house.

    1532.    Returned to England, and lived with the
               German colony in London.

    1536.    In King Henry’s service.

    1537.    Painted the fresco in the Privy Chamber
               at Whitehall.

    1538.    Went to Brussels to paint the Duchess of
               Milan. Made a second journey to
               “Upper Burgundy” in December, and
               spent a short time in Basle. The
               _Dance of Death_ and _Old Testament_
               woodcuts published.

    1539.    Went in August to Düren to paint Anne of

    1542.    Began the large picture in Barber Surgeons’

    1543.    Died, probably of the plague, on some day
               between October 7 and November 29.


BLANC, CHARLES. Jean Holbein (dit le Jeune). Histoire des Peintres de
toutes les Ecoles. 1860.

CUST, LIONEL. Dictionary of National Biography.

HIS, EDOUARD. Dessins d’Ornements d’Hans Holbein. 1886.

KNACKFUSS, H. Holbein, translated by Campbell Dodgson, with 151
illustrations. 1899.

The latest and most accurate life, containing illustrations of a larger
number of Holbein’s portraits than in any other work.

KUGLER. Handbook of Painting--German, Flemish, and Dutch Schools.
Revised by Sir J. A. Crowe. Vol. I., pp. 198-218. 1898.

LAW, ERNEST. Holbein’s Pictures at Windsor Castle. 1901.

MANTZ, PAUL. Hans Holbein, folio, Paris. 1879.

The best illustrated book on the artist, containing reproductions of the
whole of the _Dance of Death_ and _Old Testament_ woodcuts, and the
marginal drawings to _The Praise of Folly_.

ROUSSEAU, JEAN. Hans Holbein. Bibliothèque d’Art Ancien. 1885.

RUSKIN, JOHN. Ariadne Florentina. Lecture V. “Design in the German
Schools of Engraving (Holbein and Dürer).” 1872.

RUSKIN, JOHN. “Sir Joshua and Holbein.” _Cornhill Magazine_, March,

WOLTMANN, ALFRED. Holbein und seine Zeit. Second Edition, 2 vols.

This is the leading work on Holbein.

WOLTMANN, ALFRED. Holbein and his Time. Translation of the first edition
by F. E. Bunnett, with 60 illustrations. 1872.

WORNUM, R. N. Some Account of the Life and Work of Hans Holbein. 1867.

WORNUM, R. N. Hans Holbein and the Meier Madonna. Arundel Society.

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