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Hans Holbein the Younger

Sir Henry Guildford (1489-1532)©

Hans Holbein (1497/8 – 1543) was born in southern Germany. In 1516, he moved to the Swiss city of Basel where he worked as a portraitist, book illustrator and designer of stained glass. Among his employers was the prolific publisher Johannes Froben, who commissioned illustrations for books by Sir Thomas More and Desiderius Erasmus.

By 1526, religious changes in Basel had led to a reduced market for art, driving Holbein to seek work in London. With him he carried an introduction from Erasmus to More, who gave the artist his first English commissions. Apart from a return to Basel between 1528 and 1532, Holbein spent the rest of his life in England. By 1536, he had been appointed to the prestigious post of King’s Painter to Henry VIII.

Holbein’s paintings and their preparatory drawings reveal much about his working methods. Holbein made chalk drawings of his sitters from life, usually working these up into finished oil paintings. The portraits of Henry Guildford and William Reskimer and their preparatory drawings allow us to follow Holbein’s ideas as he moved from one to the other.

An important group of Holbein’s drawings and paintings survives in the Royal Collection. The drawings were owned by Henry VIII’s son Edward VI, an indication of the early value set upon the artist’s deft and sensitive portrayal of his sitters.

The income from your ticket contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Royal Collection Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities.