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

Portrait of a Man

Oil and gold on oak panel, diameter 33 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

This portrait was executed in the workshop of Hans Holbein the Younger.

At the court of Henry VIII at Whitehall Palace Holbein catered primarily to the sovereign's requests, but he also counted among his patrons and friends many courtiers who were eager to have their portraits made by the king's painter. Holbein began such portraits by capturing the likeness of the sitter on paper. While he had employed black and coloured chalks on unprimed paper during his first visit to England (1526-28), he worked up the drawings of his second stay in coloured chalks and pen and ink on pink primed paper that approximated the colour of flesh. His meticulous drawings were in turn used as cartoons - one-to-one scale images - to transfer the details of the sitter's features onto the prepared ground of a panel. Many of these drawings survived. The present portrait can be directly linked to such a drawing by Holbein himself, the painting was most likely produced by a workshop assistant.

It is supposed that the twenty-eight years old sitter may be Sir Ralph Sadler (1507-1587), a diplomat and administrator. However, the identification as Sadler is only hypothetical.

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