Hans Holbein the Younger

Hans Holbein the Younger

Hans Holbein the Younger (c. 1497– between 7 October and 29 November 1543) was a German artist and printmaker who worked in a Northern Renaissance style. He is best known for his numerous portraits and his woodcut series of the "Dance of Death", and is widely considered one of the finest portraitists of the Early Modern Period.

Early life and career

Holbein was born in Augsburg, [ [http://www.kunstmuseumbasel.ch/en/exhibitions/archives/holbein.html Biography at Kunstmuseum] ] and learned how to paint from his father Hans Holbein the Elder. In 1515 he and his brother Ambrosius Holbein went to Basel, where they designed prints, murals and stained glass. During this period, Holbein drew a famous series of pen and ink illustrations in the margins of a book owned by his schoolmaster, "The Praise of Folly", by the Dutch humanist Erasmus. [Wolf, 2004, p. 22] Holbein was introduced to Erasmus, and later painted three portraits of him.

In 1517 Holbein went to Lucerne, where he and his father painted murals for the mansion of the city's mayor; he was also charged with taking part in a knife fight. [Wolf, 2004, p. 93] In 1519 he returned to Basel where he ran a busy workshop following the premature death of Ambrosius. He designed murals and altarpieces, illustrated books, and contributed to Martin Luther's translation of the Bible. Like his father, he designed stained glass windows and painted a small number of portraits. He married Elsbeth Binzenstock, the widow of a tanner, shortly before he was accepted into the local artists' guild.

Holbein in England

The Reformation made it difficult for Holbein to support himself as an artist in Basel, Switzerland, and he traveled to London in 1526. Erasmus furnished him with a letter of introduction addressed to the English statesman and author Sir Thomas More. Holbein painted many portraits at the court of Henry VIII. While there he designed state robes for the king. He also designed many of the extravagant monuments and decorations for the coronation of Henry's second wife, Anne Boleyn, in the summer of 1533.

Several extant drawings said to be of Anne Boleyn are attributed to Holbein. One portrays a woman with rather plump features dressed in a plain nightgown and coif. Some have said that this shows the queen during pregnancy, sometime between 1533 and 1535, but recent research shows that the subject is most likely one of Anne's ladies-in-waiting, possibly Lady Margaret Lee or her sister, Anne Wyatt. It seems more likely that the finished portrait Holbein painted of Anne Boleyn was destroyed after she was beheaded on May 19, 1536 on false charges of treason, adultery and incest.

Holbein painted Henry's third wife, Jane Seymour. He also painted Jane's sister, Elizabeth Seymour, who married the son of Thomas Cromwell. This portrait was incorrectly identified as Henry's fifth wife, Queen Catherine Howard, when it was discovered in the Victorian era. After Seymour's death Holbein painted Christina of Denmark during negotiations for her prospective marriage to Henry VIII. The likeness met with Henry's approval, but Christina declined the offer of matrimony, citing a desire to retain her head.

Holbein also painted Anne of Cleves for Henry VIII. Henry criticized the portrait as having been too flattering; it seems likely that Henry was more impressed by extravagant praise for Anne than with Holbein's portrait. There is some debate over whether or not a portrait miniature of a young woman in a gold dress and jewels is in fact Holbein's painting of Henry's fifth wife, Catherine Howard.

Later years

In his later years Holbein worked in both Basel and London. On one of his stays in London he painted German merchant Georg Giese, brother of Tiedemann Giese, at the Hanseatic League outpost in London, called the Steelyard ("Stalhof").

While Holbein was working on another portrait of Henry, he died in London, apparently a victim of the plague. [Wolf, 2004, p. 91] He made his will on October 7, 1543, and a document attached to it, dated November 29th, describes him as recently dead. [Michael Levey, "The German School; National Gallery Catalogues", 1959, National Gallery, London]

Portrait techniques

Holbein always made highly detailed pencil drawings of his portrait subjects, often supplemented with ink and colored chalk. The drawings emphasize facial detail and usually did not include the hands; clothing was only indicated schematically. The outlines of these drawings were then transferred onto the support for the final painting using tiny holes in the paper through which powdered charcoal was transmitted; in later years Holbein used a kind of carbon paper. The final paintings thus had the same scale as the original drawings. Although the drawings were made as studies for paintings, they stand on their own as independent, finely wrought works of art.

He painted a few, superb, portrait miniatures, having been taught the art by Lucas Horenbout, a Flemish illuminator who was also a court artist of Henry. [According to Karel van Mander who refers to a "Lucas", assumed to be Horenbout.] Horenbout painted Holbein in perhaps his best miniature, and the best portrait we have of Holbein, who never made a self-portrait (illustration).

David Hockney has speculated in the Hockney-Falco thesis that Holbein used a concave mirror to project an image of the subject onto the drawing surface. The image was then traced. However this thesis has not met with general acceptance from art historians.

A subtle ability to render character may be noted in Holbein's work, as can be seen in his portraits of Thomas Cromwell, Desiderius Erasmus, and Henry VIII. The end results are convincing as definitive images of the subjects' appearance and personality.


King Edward VI as a child

Anne of Cleves

Catherine Howard
Lady Meutas
Jane Small

ee also

* Early Renaissance painting
* Artists of the Tudor court
* List of British artists
* Anamorphosis



*Wilson, Derek (2006). "Hans Holbein". London: Pimlico. ISBN 9781844139187
*Wolf, Norbert (2004). "Hans Holbein the Younger". Cologne: Taschen. ISBN 3822831670
*Antje Hoettler / D.M. Klinger (1999) "Ambrosius and Hans Holbein the Younger catalogue raisonné Verlag H.B. WILSON DMK

External links

* [http://www.artcyclopedia.com/artists/holbein_the_younger_hans.html A list of museums featuring the artist]
*"An [http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/holbein/ earlier version] of this article was loosely based on an article written by Nicolas Pioch."
* [http://www.tate.org.uk/britain/exhibitions/holbein/ 2006 exhibition on Holbein in England at Tate Britain]
*Review of [http://artreview.wordpress.com/2006/11/25/holbein-in-britain-tate-britain/ Holbein in Britain, Tate Britain,2006]
* [http://smarthistory.us/blog/22/holbein-vodcast/ smARThistory: "The Ambassadors"]
* [http://www.museumsyndicate.com/artist.php?artist=410 Hans Holbein the Younger Gallery at MuseumSyndicate]
* [http://book-lover.com/danceofdeath/ Holbein's Dance of Death] - A pictorial gallery of the woodcut illustrations.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Hans Holbein the Younger — Hans Holbein [Hans Holbein] (also called Hans Holbein the Younger) (1497–1543) a German painter who from 1526 lived and worked in England. He was made the official royal painter in 1536 and is best known for his paintings of King ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • Hans Holbein the Younger — ➡ Holbein * * * …   Universalium

  • Hans Holbein the Elder — Hans Holbein (c. 1460 ndash; 1524) was a German painter. [cite web|url=http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07385a.htm|title=Hans Holbein|work=Catholic Encyclopedia |accessdate=2007 02 18] He was born in Augsburg, Bavaria and died in las angeles,… …   Wikipedia

  • Hans Holbein (The Elder) —     Hans Holbein     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Hans Holbein     (The Elder Holbein)     A German painter; b. at Augsburg about 1460; d. at Isenheim, Alsace, in 1524. Except that he was born in the Bavarian centre of art, culture, and commerce,… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Holbein the Younger, Hans — (1497/1498 1543)    German painter from Augsburg, trained by his father Hans Holbein the Elder, who was also a painter. In c. 1514, Holbein the Younger went to Basel where he entered the workshop of Hans Herbster. There he gained a reputation as… …   Dictionary of Renaissance art

  • Holbein the Younger — noun German painter and engraver noted for his portraits; he was commissioned by Henry VIII to provide portraits of the English king s prospective brides (1497 1543) • Syn: ↑Holbein, ↑Hans Holbein • Instance Hypernyms: ↑old master, ↑engraver …   Useful english dictionary

  • Holbein, Hans, the Younger — (b. 1497/98, Augsburg, Bishopric of Augsburg d. 1543, London, Eng.) German painter, draftsman, and designer renowned for the precise rendering of his drawings and the compelling realism of his portraits, particularly those recording the court of… …   Universalium

  • HOLBEIN, Hans The Younger — (1497/98 1543) Hans Holbein the Younger was born in Augsburg in 1497/98. His subsequent career, however, linked him more closely with Basel in Switzerland and, finally, London. Born some twenty five years after the great Albrecht Dürer,* Holbein… …   Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary

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  • Hans Holbein — is the name of two German Renaissance painters:* Hans Holbein the Elder (1460 1524) father of Hans the Younger. * Hans Holbein the Younger (c. 1497 1543), the better known of the two, court artist to King Henry VIII of England …   Wikipedia

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