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Holbein in the Royal Collection

A closer look at Hans Holbein's works.

Painting of a Tudor man wearing a black hat.
Derich Born by Hans Holbein (RCIN 405681) ©

Hans Holbein the Younger was one of the most talented artists of the 16th century. Holbein was born in Augsburg, Germany, in around 1497. He was the son of an artist, also called Hans, and probably initially trained with his father.

By 1515, he had travelled to Basel in Switzerland, where he found success as a painter and designer of book illustrations. In 1526, Holbein travelled to London seeking work at the Tudor court. His first patrons in England were Sir Thomas More, a lawyer, government official and writer, and others from More’s learned circle, among them Sir Henry Guildford, a close friend of Henry VIII. Holbein was commissioned to make portraits for these patrons, as well as working with a team of painters on decorations at Greenwich Palace in London. View the portraits of Sir Thomas More and Sir Henry Guildford.

Although Holbein briefly travelled back to Basel in 1528, he returned to England in 1532 and remained there until his death in 1543. He achieved great success as a portrait painter at the Tudor court. By 1536, he had been appointed ‘King’s Painter’, one of several artists paid a salary by Henry VIII for their services. Holbein was celebrated by his contemporaries for the skill of his art and the lifelike quality of his portraits.

A portrait of Hans Holbein by Wenceslaus Hollar, 1647 (RCIN 803435).©

Hans Holbein in the Royal Collection

The Royal Collection includes one of the most important surviving groups of Holbein’s works. The core of this is a group of 80 drawings, the majority of which were probably acquired by Henry VIII on Holbein’s death.

Seven paintings and four miniatures by the artist have been acquired in subsequent centuries. In three cases (the portraits of Henry Guildford, William Reskimer, and Elizabeth, Lady Audley), the Collection includes both Holbein’s preparatory drawing and his finished portrait, allowing us to follow the artist as he worked from first sitting to final painting. See the portraits of William Reskimer and Elizabeth, Lady Audley.

Discover more about some of Holbein’s work in the Royal Collection by exploring the features below. You can also browse all works by Holbein on our Collection Online. 

Holbein’s portrait drawings

How did Hans Holbein create these wonderful drawings?

Derich Born

A closer look at Holbein’s remarkable painting.

Mary Shelton

Discover Holbein's drawing of a Tudor poet.

Jane Seymour

See Holbein’s elegant drawing of Henry VIII’s third wife.

Hans Holbein at the court of Henry VIII ©

Hans Holbein Connections ©

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.