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

Noli me Tangere

Oil on wood, 77 x 95 cm
Royal Collection, Hampton Court

This Renaissance subject allowed the artists to explore the theme of human emotion proffered and supra-humanly rejected. Holbein's style is subtly different here from his other religious work of the early 1520s. It is more graceful, if somewhat awkwardly composed, and has an air of mystery.

The Christ is akin to the melancholic long-faced figure in the Passion, but the chiaroscuro in the figures and their grace suggests some Leonardesque influence, if only second-hand. The profile of Mary Magdalene, the elegant phial she holds and her twisting pose are reminiscent of the figure style current in France, which Holbein visited at this time searching unsuccessfully for employment. It is probable that, adapt their conventions as he might, the robust, realist vein in Holbein seemed archaic to the sophisticates at King Francis I's court, who were to find the Italian Mannerism of Rosso Fiorentino much more to their taste in the following decade.

The emphatic drama of Holbein's account can be contrasted with the more elegiac quality of light, the landscape, more tempered poses and slighter figures in Titian's rendering.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.