HOLBEIN, Hans the Younger
(b. 1497, Augsburg, d. 1543, London)
Edward, Prince of Wales, with Monkey1541-42
Pen, ink and watercolour, 401 x 309 mm
Kunstmuseum, Öffentliche Kunstsammlung, Basel
Holbein died when Edward was in his sixth year; portraits of the prince as an older boy were ascribed to Holbein until the nineteenth century, due to a mistaken reading of the date of the artist's death. This work is evidently from late in his life, when he seems to have been under great pressure to produce court portraits of a smaller dimension, in such time as could be wrested from diplomatic journeyings. Also, perhaps because few regal commissions came his way after the debacle around Anne of Cleves' portrait, he lowered his sights and produced drawings more highly coloured than those of the early 1530s as substitutes for paintings. Many of these have suffered from being hung as paintings as a result, some fading in sunlight as is the case here. Nevertheless, beneath the ghostlike outlines of the boy's face can be seen the attempt by Holbein to parallel aspects of the father's portrait in the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid; which goes beyond sartorial similarities to the bulky, frontal pose and the flat background, while the sketchy, spontaneous handling of the brushed-on colour gives a poignancy to the work more measured treatments cannot approach.