Holbein Hans the Younger (1497 - 1543). Northern Renaissance.

Hans Holbein

Hans Holbein the Younger (1497 - 1543). Northern Renaissance.
Holbein Hans the Younger (1497 – 1543).

Hans Holbein. Northern Renaissance.

Hans Holbein the Younger, an artist of the German Renaissance, was almost completely devoid of religious painting and is less associated with the medieval tradition than other German painters. The most powerful part of Holbein’s work is the portraits, always painted from life, truthful, sometimes ruthless in their characterization, cold sober, but exquisite in color. In the early period, the portraits were less lively, ceremonial, and in the later period they were simpler, more real.

Hans Holbein spent the last years of his life in England, at the court of Henry VIII, where he was a court painter and where he painted his best portraits.

Holbein was not only a painter, but also an excellent graphic artist; he worked a lot on engraving. Particularly famous is his series of woodcuts “The Triumph of Death” (“Dance of Death”).

Holbein’s work is important not only for Germany, it played a very important role in the formation of the English portrait school of painting.


Ambassadors (1533)
Ambassadors (1533)

This is a double portrait depicting the young envoys of France Jean de Danteville and Georges de Selva. Young people, dressed in extraordinarily elaborate and luxurious clothes, stand against a wall with two shelves, the upper one covered with a Turkish carpet. The celestial spheres, instruments for astronomical observations, books, musical instruments are placed in disorder on it. All items are painted out extremely realistically and play the role of symbols of the union of art and science, harmony of earth and sky.

However, this whole allegory of a glorifying character is perceived completely differently due to some object of an incomprehensible form in the foreground. If we look at it on the right, choosing the appropriate point, we will see an image of a skull in a special painting technique called “wandering anamorphosis of the skull”. This is definitely a sign of death.

The painting is mysterious and solemn primarily because the feeling of unreality in it is conveyed through carefully painted real objects. Reality is next to illusion, they easily change places. In this way, the artist emphasized the idea of the frailty of power and wealth.

Bonifatius Amerbach

Bonifatius Amerbach (1519)

Bonifatius Amerbach is a young humanist, a close friend of Erasmus of Rotterdam. This is a representative of the new European intelligentsia. He is comprehensively developed, educated, spiritually whole. Bonifatius is surrounded by an aura of special nobility. The features of his handsome face are strict and delicate.

Henry VIII

Henry VIII

Henry VIII is an English monarch from the Tudor dynasty. Educated and gifted, at the end of his 38-year reign, he harshly persecuted anyone who disagreed with his actions. Most of all, he became known as the initiator and conductor of the Reformation of the English Church, which made England overwhelmingly a Protestant nation. The king had six wives, of whom he divorced two, and sent two to the scaffold on charges of treason. For his love, Henry was nicknamed Bluebeard. Henry VIII was a controversial figure.

He was very talented in the sciences, music. He played several musical instruments and sang beautifully. The artist introduced us to the monarch in rich, embroidered with patterns and adorned with precious stones. The king’s pose is full of impressive dignity. He has a large build, proud posture, erect. In one hand a glove, hands in rings. In the eyes of the king, a mind, an imperious character shines through. It seems that he is completely devoid of emotions, his face is so indifferently calm. Tightly compressed thin lips speak of strong will, perseverance in achieving their goals.

Lais of Corinth (1526)

Lais of Corinth (1526)

Lais of Corinth is a famous hetaira (friend, companion) in Ancient Greece. This is a woman who leads a free, independent lifestyle. The heterosexuals were well educated and well-mannered. In many ways, the getters of Ancient Greece are similar to the geisha of Japan, their task is to entertain a man intellectually, but they entered into a physical connection only at their own will. Therefore, they could not be called in the literal sense public women, although they did take money for their services.

Heterosexuals had a fairly high status, they achieved many, and sometimes even took them as wives. Lais of Corinth was unusually good, her services were dearly paid. The philosopher Aristippus sought her love. In the image of Lais, the artist portrayed Magdalena Offenburg. He dressed it according to the European fashion of the 16th century, although in Ancient Greece clothes were not sewn, and women draped their figure with a piece of canvas (the so-called chiton), securing it with hairpins. Hans Holbein created the image of a touching, gentle, romantic woman. The beautiful young heterosexual is sad, she is clearly saddened by her fate. Lais looks with bitter bewilderment at the gold coins scattered on the table and earned by her hard work of the priestess of love.

Portrait of the French Ambassador to England Sir Moretta Charles de Sollier

Hans Holbein. Portrait of the French Ambassador to England Sir Moretta Charles de Sollier

Before us is the French ambassador to the English court of the 16th century, Sir Morette Charles de Sollier. For some reason, Hans Holbein did not indicate the name of the model in the portrait and for a long time believed that the Duke of Milan by Leonardo da Vinci was depicted here. And only in the XX century it was possible to accurately identify that this is the French ambassador. This is a magnificent portrait of Holbein, an acclaimed masterpiece of the 16th century portrait genre.

The artist showed us a self-confident, intelligent person with a decisive character – as evidenced by his firm, slightly ironic look, slightly narrowed eyes, tightly compressed lips. He has an imposing figure. broad shoulders, strong arms. It is felt that this person has reached a certain position in society, he is respected and provided for. The painting is painted in a strict palette of dark and light brown tones.

Portrait of the merchant Georg Guissé (1532)

Hans Holbein. Portrait of the merchant Georg Guissé (1532)

Merchants during the Renaissance had great weight and respect in society. Before us is a portrait of the German merchant Georg Giesse. The merchant is depicted in his office, in a familiar setting, which the artist painted in some detail: wooden walls, shelves with books, an expensive carpet on the table and a modest bunch of flowers in a vase. But the objects do not clutter up the space of the picture and do not overshadow the main thing – the image of the merchant himself.

His clothing testifies to Georg’s material wealth, his posture is full of dignity and proud calmness. The artist acts as a great colorist in the picture. The portrait is painted in a harmonious combination of green, black, pink and yellowish shades. A silk shirt, a carpet on the table, flowers in a vase are masterfully painted. Above George’s head there is an inscription, which was often done by artists in that era: “The image that you see here has the features and appearance of George, such are his lively eyes, such are his cheeks. At the age of 34, in the year of the Lord 1532”.

Portrait of Robert Cheeseman, falconer king

Hans Holbein. Portrait of Robert Cheeseman, falconer king

Falconer – a high position at the court of the king. The duties of the falconer include the entire organization of the royal hunt. The falconer of the king is so much in the trust of the king that he often receives the highest honors. And awards – both moral and material. Sometimes the king even honors his falconer with friendship, entrusts him with his personal secrets, and then the falconer has great power at court.

The position of the falconer is usually hereditary from father to son or to another relative. Apparently falconer Robert Cheeseman enjoys great power at court and the trust of the king. This can be seen in his rich clothes, in his straight, proud posture. And most importantly, it is the expression of a courageous, full of self-esteem, face, proud, confident look, resolutely compressed lips. And in his arms sits quietly his trained, drilled falcon, his main weapon.

Saint Ursula (1523)

Hans Holbein. Saint Ursula (1523)

Saint Ursula, the heroine of a Christian legend that was widespread in the Middle Ages in Western European countries. According to legend, Ursula, daughter of the British king, was famous for her beauty, wisdom and truthfulness. She wanted to avoid the marriage she hated and at the same time protect her father from the threats of a powerful challenger to her hand. Therefore, Ursula gave her consent to the marriage. But only after three years and on condition that the groom would accept Christianity.

Then Ursula went with her retinue to Rome. On the way, Ursula was joined by virgins who had dedicated themselves, like her, to Christ. Their number has reached 11 thousand. In Rome, Ursula was received by the Pope. He learned about the martyrdom awaiting her and her companions and wished to share it with the virgins. The Pope told everyone about his decision and solemnly resigned from his rank, and then joined the pilgrims. On the way back near Cologne, the pilgrims were attacked by the Huns. They hated Christianity, with indignation they learned about the decision of the virgins to take a vow of celibacy, and then the Huns exterminated everyone. The last one to die was Ursula. Because she refused to become the wife of the leader of the Hans Holbein, captivated by her beauty.