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Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/8-1543)

William Warham (c.1450-1532), Archbishop of Canterbury 1527

Black, white and coloured chalks, and traces of metalpoint | 40.7 x 30.9 cm (sheet of paper) | RCIN 912272

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  • A portrait drawing of William Warham (c.1450-1532), Archbishop of Canterbury. A bust length portrait facing three-quarters to the left. He wears a hat and fur collar. A study for the painting in the Louvre. Inscribed in an eighteenth-century hand at upper left: Waramus Arch BP Cant: Holbein was the most important painter working in England during the Reformation, though he was born in Augsburg, trained in Basel and spent a total of only thirteen years in England, from 1526 to 1528 and from 1532 to 1543. Of the eighty portrait drawings by Holbein now at Windsor, thirty can be connected with surviving paintings, and nearly all the remainder were no doubt studies for lost works. In 1547 'a booke of paternes for phisioneamyes', probably identifiable with the Holbein series, was inventoried in Edward VI's collection. In most cases the identity of the sitter is known only from the inscriptions on the drawings, apparently copied in the eighteenth century from identifications made by Sir John Cheke, tutor to Edward VI. William Warham was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury by Henry VII in 1503, after a career as a diplomat; from 1504 to 1515 he was also Lord Chancellor. The accession of Henry VIII in 1509 and his preferment of Thomas Wolsey brought Warham and Wolsey into frequent conflict over matters of ecclesiastical authority. None the less the two of them began proceedings for the King's divorce from Katherine of Aragon, and after Wolsey's fall from power in 1529 Warham assumed sole responsibility for pursuing the matter. His reluctance was apparent, and shortly before his death in August 1532 he voiced his clear opposition. Only with the subsequent appointment of Thomas Cranmer to the archbishopric was the divorce effected. Warham was a friend and patron of Erasmus, and in 1524 Erasmus sent him as a gift his portrait by Holbein, probably the painting dated 1523 in the collection of the Earl of Radnor. On Holbein's arrival in England, Warham returned the compliment, and the present drawing is Holbein's full-scale study for the painting sent to Erasmus. That painting seems not to have survived, though a version in the Louvre is probably an autograph replica made for Warham himself. The fine version at Lambeth Palace is a later sixteenth-century copy. Though it has suffered somewhat from abrasion, the drawing retains both subtlety of modelling and great strength of characterisation. Like other portrait drawings from Holbein's earlier English visit, it is executed on unprimed paper; the studies from the later sojourn were mostly made on paper prepared with a pinkish ground. Catalogue entry from Royal Treasures, A Golden Jubilee Celebration, London 2002

    Henry VIII; Edward VI, 1547; Henry FitzAlan, 12th Earl of Arundel; by whom bequeathed to John, Lord Lumley, 1580; by whom probably bequeathed to Henry, Prince of Wales, 1609, and thus inherited by Prince Charles (later Charles I), 1612; by whom exchanged with Philip Herbert, 4th Earl of Pembroke, 1627/8; by whom given to Thomas Howard, 14th Earl of Arundel; acquired by Charles II by 1675

  • Medium and techniques

    Black, white and coloured chalks, and traces of metalpoint


    40.7 x 30.9 cm (sheet of paper)