HOLBEIN, Hans the Younger
(b. 1497, Augsburg, d. 1543, London)

Portrait of Sir Henry Guildford

1527
Oak, 82,6 x 66,4 cm
Royal Collection, Windsor

Sir Henry Guildford (1489-1532), two years older than Henry VIII, was a great favourite of the King, ending his career at court as Comptroller of the Royal Household, whose baton of office he holds. He also wears the Order of the Garter, awarded him in 1526. Possibly the pictures of him and his wife were commissioned for this occasion, because the panels were completed the following year. (The dating is definite, as the matching portrait of Lady Guildford is dated to 1527.He was a strong proponent of religious reform.)

In comparison with the preparatory drawing held at Windsor, the sitter appears sterner and more conscious of office; worldly power emanates from his bulky figure, which swamps the background in the way Henry himself was also to do.

Sensitive though the modelling and shading of the face are, they reveal less empathy than is evident in the portrait of More. A trace of latent tension or paranoia, akin to that felt in Florentine Mannerist works gives an edgy quality to the apparently self assured form, enhanced by the brittle lighting at the top left of the picture which brings the vine and its tendrils into prominence. The badge on Guildford's cap bears geometrical forms which are also found in Dürer's Melancolia I (1514).