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

Self-Portrait

1542-43
Coloured chalks and pen, heightened with gold, 23 x 18 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Although the gold background is of a later date, the wording of the Latin inscription at the top of the picture is presumably authentic. According to this, the picture is a self portrait of Johannes Holbein of Basel at the age of 45. The painter died not long after in London, probably of the plague. Holbein arrests the viewer with his direct gaze, which suggests he was looking into a mirror. An unusual feature is the use of blue pastel, for which there is scarcely any precedent. Thanks to the inscription, the colour-based composition and fine modeling of the face, the picture acquires the character of a painting and looks not so much like a preparatory study for a panel painting but rather like an original portrait.