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

Signboard for a Schoolmaster

Pine panel, 56 x 66 cm
Öffentliche Kunstsammlung, Basel

This signboard, which has writing and painting on both sides, advertises the services of the schoolmaster Myconius. The same text appears on both sides: anyone can learn to read and write, irrespective of whether he or she is a burgher, an apprentice artisan, a woman, maid, boy, or girl. If, despite all the effort they should fail, slow learners would have nothing to pay.

Whereas Hans Holbein (this picture) shows two grown men being taught to write, Ambrosius depicts a reading lesson for children (see at Ambrosius Holbein). Although the teacher is giving one pupil a "helping hand" with a switch, this scene lacks the tension that marks Hans's picture of the adults at study. His figures are much larger proportionally, they cast energetic shadows, and both physical attitude and facial expression tellingly catch the concentrated strain of the teacher and his students.