A Young Man with a Pink
Hans Holbein the younger (Augsburg 1497/8 - London 1543)
Without the German artist Hans Holbein the younger, our vision of Tudor England would be very different. Holbein’s compelling realism made him one of the greatest artists of 16th-century Europe and one of the greatest portraitists of all time. Born in Bavaria, Holbein moved to Basel where he produced woodcut designs for publishers. With a rise in social and religious conflict connected to the Protestant Reformation, Holbein sought patronage abroad, first visiting England in 1526 with a recommendation to Thomas More from the scholar Erasmus. Despite arriving in the middle of one of the most volatile and treacherous periods in English history, Holbein returned again in 1532 and stayed on as court painter to Henry VIII. As well as large portraits, Holbein was also a pioneering painter of miniatures such as this example. The tondo, or circular, format is one that Holbein particularly favoured when in England. It was sometimes used for portraits forming the bottom or lid of circular boxes. Once thought to be a self-portrait of the artist, this miniature more likely depicts a young Englishman or a German merchant of the Hanseatic League in London. The sitter holds a pink across his chest, a symbol of love and betrothal during the 15th and 16th centuries. Holbein would have been familiar with the Flemish custom of the bride wearing a carnation on her wedding day. Despite the downfall of his patron, Sir Thomas More, Holbein retained his position as the King’s Painter, even after Henry’s ill-fated wedding to Anne of Cleves, whose image Holbein had been sent to capture. In the end it wasn’t hotheaded Henry who brought about the artist’s final demise but that other unpredictable Tudor nasty - the plague.
Oil painting on oak panel (circular), A Young Man with a Pink by Hans Holbein the Younger (Augsburg 1497/8 - London 1543), inscribed in gold ANNO (left centre) 1533 (right centre). A bust portrait against a blue background, facing slightly left, wearing a black cloak open at the neck showing a red vest and white linen shirt, a flat black cap, holding a pink in his right hand. Holbein is chiefly known as portrait painter to the court of Henry VIII. A German, he made his first trip to England in 1526 at the invitation of Sir Thomas More. His second visit in 1532 lasted until his death from the plague in 1543. Holbein’s English portraits are among his best works and are marked by a severe objectivity.
Franz Jäger, the elder (1743 - 1809), Vienna or Franz Jäger, the younger (1781–1839) and possibly the latter's posthumous sale, Vienna, 17–18 December 1841, lot 57 [if so, bought in, since reported by Waagen as in the possession of the elder's eldest son, Anton, in 1860]; Anton Jäger (1779 - 1865), Vienna; F. J. Gsell, Vienna (by 1866); his [posthumous?] sale, Vienna, 14 March 1872, lot 208 (bought by Plach); Fräulein Gabriele Pržibram, Vienna [and/or Prague?] (by 1891); thence by descent to Frau Leonore Goldschmidt- Pržibram, Brussels; her [posthumous?] sale, Frederick Müller, Amsterdam, 17 June 1924, lot 2, repd.; bought on behalf of the 2nd Viscount Bearsted by Agnew’s, for £3,720.14.7, plus 5% commission [£3,906.15.4]; given with Upton House to the National Trust by Walter Samuel, 2nd Viscount Bearsted (1882 – 1948) shortly before his death
Upton House, The Bearsted Collection (National Trust)
Marks and inscriptions
Recto: ANNO 1533 (dated) Verso: on a paper label, top left: City of Manchester Art Gallery 50 on a paper label, top right: The Rt Hon Viscount Bearsted on a paper label, covering the back panel: Hans Holbein / 1497-1543 / “Portrait of a Man” / Ex Collection Gsell / Jager / Lippman / Frauline Gabriele Przibram (Vienna) / Frau L Goldschimdt-Przibram (Brussels) / Reproduced in Klassiker der Kunst page 104 / Catalogue of “Exposition de la Miniature” Brussels 1912 (being plate 1) No. 855a / Described by Dr. Woltman in his “Holbein und Seine Zeit” as a portrait of Holbein himself / Dressed in the flat black cap and costume of the German merchants of the steelyard / (see Hans Holbein the Younger by Arthur B. Chamberlain, 1913, in which the Goldschimdt-Przibram picture is mentioned. Vol II, page 57 and 349) on a paper label fragment, bottom centre: Gallerie Gsell on a gilt wooden tablet, bottom centre: Jean HOLBEIN le jeune 1498-1543
Makers and roles
Hans Holbein the younger (Augsburg 1497/8 - London 1543), artist
New Light on Old Masters, Squash Court Gallery, 2013
Waagen 1866 G. F. Waagen, Die Vornehmsten Kunstdenkmäler in Wien, Vienna, 1866, vol. I, p.317 Woltman 1868 A. Woltmann, Holbein und seine Zeit, Leipzig, 1868, vol. II, p.154, No.261 Frimmel 1891 T. Frimmel, Kleine Galeriestudien, Bamberg, 1891, p.293 Ganz 1912 P. Ganz, Holbein (Klassiker der Kunst), 1912, pp.104 (repd.), 241 Chamberlain, 1913: Arthur B.Chamberlain, Hans Holbein the Younger, 2 vols, London, 1913, vol.II, pp.57, 349 Ganz 1950 P. Ganz, The Paintings of Hans Holbein the Younger, London, 1950, p.244, No.77, pl.118. Strong 1980 Roy Strong, Holbein: The Complete Paintings, London, 1980, p.58, ill. p.58, no.80 Rowlands 1985 John Rowlands, The Paintings of Hans Holbein the Younger, Oxford, 1985, no.48, pp.140-41 & pl.86