HOLBEIN, Hans the Younger
(b. 1497, Augsburg, d. 1543, London)
Vellum mounted on playing card, diameter 5,7 cm
Royal Collection, Windsor
The pair of pendant portraits of the near-royal relatives and schoolfellows of Prince Edward (Henry Brandon and Charles Brandon) shows that the distilled power of quiet observation that is Holbein's main achievement in miniature `limning' could draw personality and character even out of the very young. Both boys appear as differentiated individuals; Henry impatient with the sitting, on the verge of becoming fractious, the more stolid Charles transfixed by his role as sitter.
The refinement Holbein displays here was rarely bettered. The sad fate of the children casts a poignant aura across their portraits; the brothers died of the notorious `sweating sickness' within an hour of each other in 1551. Because the elder died first, Charles was deemed to have been (very briefly) the third Duke of Suffolk, heir to the bosom-friend of Henry VIII's youth, whose third wife had been Henry's sister, Mary, the dowager Queen of France.