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Portrait of Sir Thomas More, 152

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Item Code: TOPHans Holbein the Younger-14
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Artist Introduce:
Hans Holbein the Younger (German: Hans Holbein der Jüngere) (c. 1497 - between 7 October and 29 November 1543) was a German and Swiss 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.
Born in Augsburg, Holbein worked mainly in Basel as a young artist. At first he painted murals and religious works and designed for stained glass windows and printed books. He also painted the occasional portrait, making his international mark with portraits of the humanist Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam. When the Reformation reached Basel, Holbein worked for reformist clients while continuing to serve traditional religious patrons. His Late Gothic style was enriched by artistic trends in Italy, France and the Netherlands, as well as by Renaissance humanism. The result was a combined aesthetic uniquely his own.
Holbein travelled to England in 1526 in search of work, with a recommendation from Erasmus. He was welcomed into the humanist circle of Thomas More, where he quickly built a high reputation. After returning to Basel for four years, he resumed his career in England in 1532. This time he worked under the patronage of Anne Boleyn and Thomas Cromwell. By 1535, he was King's Painter to King Henry VIII. In this role, he produced not only portraits and festive decorations but designs for jewellery, plate and other precious objects. His portraits of the royal family and nobles are a record of the court in the years when Henry was asserting his supremacy over the English church.
Holbein's art was prized from early in his career. The French poet and reformer Nicholas Bourbon dubbed him "the Apelles of our time," a typical contemporary accolade.Holbein has also been described as a great "one-off" of art history, since he founded no school. After his death, some of his work was lost, but much was collected, and by the 19th century, Holbein was recognised among the great portrait masters. Recent exhibitions have also highlighted his versatility. He turned his fluid line to designs ranging from intricate jewellery to monumental frescoes. Holbein's art has sometimes been called realist, since he drew and painted with a rare precision. His portraits were renowned in their time for their likeness; and it is through Holbein's eyes that many famous figures of his day, such as Erasmus and More, are now "seen". Holbein was never content, however, with outward appearance. He embedded layers of symbolism, allusion, and paradox in his art, to the lasting fascination of scholars. In the view of art historian Ellis Waterhouse, his portraiture "remains unsurpassed for sureness and economy of statement, penetration into character, and a combined richness and purity of style".
Biography
Early career
Hans (right) and Ambrosius Holbein, by Hans Holbein the Elder, 1511. Silverpoint on white-coated paper, Berlin State Museums
Holbein was born in the free imperial city of Augsburg during the winter of 1497–98.He was a son of the painter and draughtsman Hans Holbein the Elder, whose trade he and his older brother, Ambrosius, followed. Holbein the Elder ran a large and busy workshop in Augsburg, sometimes assisted by his brother Sigmund, also a painter.
By 1515, Hans and Ambrosius had moved as journeymen painters to the city of Basel, a centre of learning and the printing trade. There they were apprenticed to Hans Herbster, Basel's leading painter.The brothers found work in Basel as designers of woodcuts and metalcuts for printers.In 1515, the preacher and theologian Oswald Myconius invited them to add pen drawings to the margin of a copy of The Praise of Folly by the humanist scholar Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam.The sketches provide early evidence of Holbein's wit and humanistic leaning. His other early works, including the double portrait of Basel's mayor Jakob Meyer zum Hasen and his wife Dorothea, follow his father's style.
The young Holbein, alongside his brother and his father, is pictured in the left-hand panel of Holbein the Elder's 1504 altar-piece triptych the Basilica of St. Paul, which is displayed at the Staatsgalerie in Augsberg.
In 1517, father and son began a project in Lucerne (Luzern), painting internal and external murals for the merchant Jakob von Hertenstein. While in Lucerne Holbein also designed cartoons for stained glass.The city's records show that on 10 December 1517, he was fined five livres for fighting in the street with a goldsmith called Caspar, who was fined the same amount.That winter, Holbein probably visited northern Italy, though no record of the trip survives. Many scholars believe he studied the work of Italian masters of fresco, such as Andrea Mantegna, before returning to Lucerne.He filled two series of panels at Hertenstein's house with copies of works by Mantegna, including The arts of Caesar.
Portrait of Erasmus of Rotterdam, 1523. Oil and tempera on wood, National Gallery, London, on loan from Longford Castle
In 1519, Holbein moved back to Basel. His brother fades from the record at about this time, and it is usually presumed that he died. Holbein re-established himself rapidly in the city, running a busy workshop. He joined the painters' guild and took out Basel artship. He married Elsbeth Schmid, a widow a few years older than he was, who had an infant son, Franz, and was running her late husband's tanning business. She bore Holbein a son of his own, Philipp, in their first year of marriage.
Holbein was prolific during this period in Basel, which coincided with the arrival of Lutheranism in the city.He undertook a number of major projects, such as external murals for The House of the Dance and internal murals for the Council Chamber of the Town Hall. The former are known from preparatory drawings.The Council Chamber murals survive in a few poorly preserved fragments. Holbein also produced a series of religious paintings and designed cartoons for stained glass windows.[
In a period of revolution in book design, he illustrated for the publisher Johann Froben. His woodcut designs included those for the Dance of Death,[25] the Icones (illustrations of the Old Testament),and the title page of Martin Luther's bible. Through the woodcut medium, Holbein refined his grasp of expressive and spatial effects.
Holbein also painted the occasional portrait in Basel, among them the double portrait of Jakob and Dorothea Meyer, and, in 1519, that of the young academic Boniface Amerbach. According to art historian Paul Ganz, the portrait of Amerbach marks an advance in his style, notably in the use of unbroken colours.For Meyer, he painted an altarpiece of the Madonna which included portraits of the donor, his wife, and his daughter.In 1523, Holbein painted his first portraits of the great Renaissance scholar Erasmus, who required likenesses to send to his friends and admirers throughout Europe.These paintings made Holbein an international artist. Holbein visited France in 1524, probably to seek work at the court of Francis I. When Holbein decided to seek employment in England in 1526, Erasmus recommended him to his friend the statesman and scholar Thomas More.[33] "The arts are freezing in this part of the world," he wrote, "and he is on the way to England to pick up some angels".
Portrait of Sir Thomas More, 1527. Oil and tempera on oak, Frick Collection, New York City
England, 1526–1528
Holbein broke his journey at Antwerp, where he bought some oak panels and may have met the painter Quentin Matsys.Sir Thomas More welcomed him to England and found him a series of commissions. "Your painter, my dearest Erasmus," he wrote, "is a wonderful artist". Holbein painted the famous Portrait of Sir Thomas More (Holbein) and another of More with his family. The group portrait, original in conception, is known only from a preparatory sketch and copies by other hands. According to art historian Andreas Beyer, it "offered a prelude of a genre that would only truly gain acceptance in Dutch painting of the seventeenth century".Seven fine related studies of More family members also survive.
During this first stay in England, Holbein worked largely for a humanist circle with ties to Erasmus. Among his commissions was the portrait of William Warham, Archbishop of art, who owned a Holbein portrait of Erasmus.Holbein also painted the Bavarian astronomer and mathematician Nicholas Kratzer, a tutor of the More family whose notes appear on Holbein's sketch for their group portrait. Although Holbein did not work for the king during this visit, he painted the portraits of courtiers such as Sir Henry Guildford and his wife Lady Mary, and of Anne Lovell, recently identified as the subject of Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling.In May 1527, "Master Hans" also painted a panorama of the siege of Thérouanne for the visit of French Ambassadors. With Kratzer, he devised a ceiling covered in planetary signs, under which the visitors dined. The chronicler Edward Hall described the spectacle as showing "the whole Earth, environed with the sea, like a very map or cart".

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