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

Portrait of Sir Richard Southwell

c. 1537
Black and coloured chalks, brush in black and metal pen, 366 x 277 mm
Royal Collection, Windsor

Holbein did the study, which is a preparatory drawing for the portrait, in black, brown and yellow chalks and added emphasis with black ink. The paper was tinted pink, which is a technique he used only during his second visit to England. Before that, he never used colour grounds on paper nor mixed chalk and ink. In the righthand margin, Holbein notes in German that the eyes are slightly yellowish.

A comparison between the drawing and the finished portrait of Southwell (Uffizi, Florence) shows how complete Holbein's conceptions were before the painting was undertaken. Although corrections were sometimes made on the panel, the notation of light and shadow (down the back of Southwell's neck, for example) and such identifying features as the scar on his throat, were pinpointed from the start with such authority that the static massed volume of the sitter was fully in realized before paint was applied.

The face is changed very little between the two works - it is the garment that is altered; and from its monochrome sobriety the painting gains a simplified power that is the hallmark of the mid-1530s work. The annotation running vertically up the right-hand side of the drawing reads `the eyes a little yellowish', a rare instance of Holbein's departure from reliance on his extraordinary visual memory.

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