'the Younger'

Hans Holbein the Younger (1497-1543) was a German artist and printmaker who worked in a Northern Renaissance style. He is best known as one of the greatest portraitists of the 16th century. He also produced religious art, satire and Reformation propaganda, and made a significant contribution to the history of book design. He is called "the Younger" to distinguish him from his father, Hans Holbein the Elder, an accomplished painter of the Late Gothic school.

   Hans Holbein was born in Augsburg, Bavaria. He received his first lessons in art from his father. In 1515 the younger Holbein went to Basel, Switzerland, with his brother, Ambrosius. Among the many scholars living in Basel at that time was the famous Dutch humanist Erasmus, who befriended the young artist and asked him to illustrate his satire "Encomium Moriae" ("The Praise of Folly"). Holbein also illustrated other books, including Martin Luther's German translation of the Bible. In addition he painted pictures and portraits and, like his father, designed stained-glass windows. He also created designs for a series of 41 woodcuts called "The Dance of Death".

About 1525 the factional strife that accompanied the Reformation made Basel a difficult place for an artist to work. In 1526 Holbein, carrying a letter of introduction from Erasmus to the English statesman and author Sir Thomas More, set out for London. He met with a favorable reception in England and stayed there for two years. In 1528 he returned to Basel, where he painted portraits and murals for the town hall. In 1532 he left his wife and children there and traveled once again to London.

In England, where he became court painter to Henry VIII, Holbein was known chiefly as a painter of portraits. His services were much in demand. The more than 100 miniature and full-size portraits he completed at Henry's court provide a remarkable document of that colorful period. An old account of his services at court relates that he painted the portrait of the king "life size, so well that everyone who looks is astonished, since it seems to live as if it moved its head and limbs".

Holbein also found time to perform numerous services for Henry. He designed the king's state robes and made drawings that were the basis of all kinds of items used by the royal household, from buttons to bridles to book bindings. In 1539, when Henry was thinking of marrying Anne of Cleves, he sent Holbein to paint her portrait.

In 1543, Holbein was in London working on another portrait of the king when he died.


"Portrait of Henry VIII" (1536) Oil on wood, 19 x 28 cm - 7.48 x 11 in. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Madrid, Spain.

"Georg Gisze, a German merchant in London" (1532) Oil on wood, 96.3 x 85.7 cm - 38 x 33 3/4 in. Gemaldegalerie, Staatliche Museen, Berlin, Germany.

"Sir Thomas More" (1527) Tempera on wood, 60 x 75 cm - 23.62 x 29.53 in. Frick Collection, New York, USA.

"The Ambassadors" (1533) Oil on oak, 209 x 207 cm - 82.3 x 81.5 in. National Gallery, London, UK.

"Sir Richard Southwell" (1536) Oil on wood, 47.5 x 38 cm - 18 x 15 in. Uffizi, Florence, Italy.

"Erasmus" (1523) Oil on wood, 33 x 43 cm - 12.99 x 16.93 in. Musée du Louvre, Paris, France.

"Portrait of a Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling" (1527-28) Oil on oak, 38.7 x 54 cm - 15.24 x 21.26 in. National Gallery, London, UK

"Christina of Denmark, Ducchess of Milan" (1538) Oil on oak, 83 x 179 cm - 32.68 x 70.5 in. National Gallery, London, UK.

"Portrait of Lady Mary Guildford" (circa 1527) Black and coloured chalks, 38.5 x 55.2 cm - 15.16 x 21.73 in. Kupferstichkabinett, Öffentliche Kunstsammlung, Basle, Germany.

"Self­Portrait" (1542-43) Coloured chalks, 18 x 23 cm - 7 x 9 in. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, Italy.

Text source: unknown.

Related Artists:

Related Terms: Renaissance, Illustration Art.

"Ambrosius and Hans Holbein (the Younger)" (1511) Hans Holbein 'the Elder'.

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