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

Portrait of William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury

Oil on oak, 82 x 67 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

William Warham (1450-1532) was the last of the pre-Reformation archbishops of Canterbury, a quiet, retiring intellectual who nonetheless closed his career with a resolute stand against the anticlerical policies of King Henry VIII of England. Lord Chancellor from 1504 to 1515, William Warham was the man who crowned the young royal couple Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon (1485-1536) in 1509. He remained faithful to the Roman Catholic Church all his life and when, after 1529, Parliament took more and more steps to restrict the authority of the Pope during the conflict over the King's divorce, the archbishop protested. Nonetheless, he died a natural death at a ripe old age in 1532, and unlike many others, like St Thomas Becket, the earlier archbishop whom he revered, did not have to pay with his life for his fidelity to the Catholic Church.

Whereas in The Solothurn Madonna the gold settings of the precious stones adorning the miter of St Nicholas are simulated with yellow paint, in this portrait of Warham, Holbein used real gold applied with a brush for rendering William Warham's episcopal miter. This is typical of his works in the period after his journey to France.

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