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Hans Holbein the Younger
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • Hans Holbein the Younger
  • England
  • Date: mid- or late 16th century
  • Object Type: Miniature
  • Medium: Watercolour and bodycolour on vellum stuck down onto playing card
  • Diameter: 3.6 cm, image size
  • Diameter: 4.4 cm, with frame
  • Inv: M203
  • Location: Sixteenth Century Gallery
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Further Reading
  • This miniature shows the German-born painter Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/8 – 1543). The artist’s bust is shown against a strong blue background, while Holbein’s monogram, the year 1543 and the painter’s age in that year – the year of his death - are inscribed in gold capital letters on the blue background. The identification can be proven by the comparison with Holbein’s self-portrait drawing in the Uffizi in Florence, which also shows Holbein at the age of forty-five, just before his death.

    The miniature passed through several important British collections, where it was long regarded as a self-portrait of the artist. Its quality and its provenance make it an outstanding example of an antiquarian and artistic interest in Holbein, who was venerated as the founding figure of painting in Britain. It has, however, proved difficult to determine the author of this famous work. The miniature is considerably different in style from Holbein’s accepted miniatures, and since the 1950’s the attribution to Holbein has gradually and correctly been abandoned.

    Until recently, the miniature was attributed to the Flemish-born Lucas Horenbout, who came to England with his father, the book illuminator Gerard Horenbout, and his sister Susanna in the mid 1520s. Lucas Horenbout is first mentioned in Henry VIII’s chamber accounts in September 1525 and he died in 1544. The artist is only known from these sources and no documented works by him exist. Attributing portrait pictures to him thus remains highly conjectural.