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Hans Holbein the Younger

One of the Greatest Painters Of All Time

Bavarian Northern Renaissance Portrait Painter to the Tudors

Artistically and stylistically influenced by the following painters; Dieric Bouts, Jan van Eyck, Hans Memling  and Quentin Metsys

Education - apprenticed to his father Hans Holbein the Elder
Medium - Oil on wood

Cause of Death - Black Death (plague)

 One of the worlds most innovative and accomplished painters, a Holbein portrait is instantly recognizable. He created dazzling narratives with the vision of a thoroughly Renaissance mind. His paintings are truly masterpieces made with both skillfulness and imagination.

 Holbein Biography

Holbein was born in the bustling burg of Augsburg, Bavaria. He grew up in his famous fathers studio, Hans Holbein the Elder. While still a young child he learned painting and drawing techniques usually reserved for adults. Holbein left Austria for England and became the most well-known of the Tudor court painters, enjoying courtly life and all the sumptuous trappings. He was well-suited for life at the English court with his intellect and knowledge of art, music and literature.  According to art historian Clara Erskine Clement "Holbein was one of the foremost of German masters. All his pictures are realistic, and many of them are fantastic; he gave graceful movement and beauty of form to many of his subjects; his drapery was well arranged; his color and manner of painting were good. He painted in fresco and oil colors, executed miniatures and engravings. His portraits were his best works, and in them he equalled the greatest masters. The most reliable portrait of this artist is in the Basle Museum. It is done in red and black chalk, and represents him as a man with regular, well-shaped features, with a cheerful expression which also shows decision of character."

Holbein, like King Henry, was known for his roguish behavior and violent drunken sprees. The two got along well with periodic fallings out. One such disagreement was over Holbein' s portrait of Anne of Cleves.  In 1539 the artist was sent to the court of the Duke of Cleves, to paint Anne. The outraged King Henry criticized  Holbein for making the portrait of Anne far more flattering then she actually was in person. The chubby monarch was disenchanted when he met Anne in person. Based upon Holbein portrait he was expecting a charming blonde milkmaid and instead found a dowdy, lumpy young princess. According to historian Thomas Grimwell, "Upon meeting his intended Henry vomited into a young pages hat and took to his bed chamber for six days. During the week the king ordered suckling pigs on platters and pastries of all sorts. He devoured copious amounts of victuals and drank many draughts. His face was shiny with grease and his beard full of crumbs. This is how he went to his wedding chamber."


Henry never forgave Holbein.

.Holbein was steeped in palace intrigue and was known as a shrewd social climber. According to his biographer, Mary Schell Hoke Bacon "Meantime, Sir Thomas More had fallen into disfavor with the King and was to lose his head, but it is written that the artist's portraits "betray nothing of this tragedy." He was as ready to climb to fame by the favor of his generous patron's enemies as he had been to accept the offices of Sir Thomas More. He painted the portraits of several of the wives of Henry VIII, and it may be said that there was a good deal of that monarch's temperament to be found in Holbein himself. Take him all in all, Hans was as detestable as a man as he was excellent as a painter."


Holbein painted  nearly all of the kings wives as well as his ministers. His greatest masterpiece He was not much of a family man. According to his biographer, Mary Schell Hoke Bacon, "Holbein married and beat his wife; had several children and took care of none of them. His wife grew to look old and worn while he remained a gay looking sport, quite tired of one whom he had had on his hands for ten years. He wandered everywhere and left his family to shift for itself."  

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References - Pictures Every Child Should Know by Mary Schell Hoke Bacon

The Life of Anne of Cleeves by Thomas Grimwell