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

Darmstadt Madonna (detail)

1526 and after 1528
Oil on limewood
Schlossmuseum, Darmstadt

The presentation of the Madonna and Child is a triumph of illusionism that ranks with the achievements of Van Eyck in Flanders a century before. The play of light over the fluting of the architectural shell behind the two figures carves out the space into which the delicately shadowed crown, hair and face of the Madonna are set. There is no Raphaelesque regularity in the Madonna's features - as with most northern Madonnas, a specific model was used, a friend of Holbein's, one Magdalena Offenburg who also posed for the Lais and whose lifestyle, ironically, was not considered blameless.

However, the compelling physical presence and credibility of the figures is the result of artistic means alone; the twisting of the child's body emphasizes the weight the Madonna's arms must carry, and Christ's projecting feet and the foreshortening of his own and his mother's arms stress the space his torso occupies. The combination of warm green and gold also brings the Madonna forward against the neutral .tone of the stonework.