Hans Holbein the Younger and Anne of Cleves

Hans Holbein the younger a great painter and miniaturist.







 Hans Holbein the Younger self- portrait,  c. 1539 oil and tempera on parchment, mounted on canvas. The Louvre Museum, Paris. Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain.

Known as one of the best portrait painters of the 16th century, Hans Holbein the Younger, was born in Augsburg in 1497/98, belonging to a renowned family of artists.








Hans Holbein the Elder, 1465-1524, source originally from Wikipedia: description page is/was here. Public Domain. Wikipedia Commons. 

Since a young age, Hans and his elder brother Ambrosius (also a painter) received their first lessons in their father's workshop, the famous painter Hans Holbein the Elder, also from their uncle Sigmund Holbein. ( Hans Holbein the Elder and his brother Sigmund used to work together).


 Hans Holbein the Elder (1465-1524) portrait of his two sons,  Ambrosius Holbein and Hans Holbein, silver point on white coated paper 10.3 x 25.5cm. Berlin State Museums. source/ph Stephanie Buck, Hans Holbein, Cologne: Konemann,1999, ISBN 3829025831. Commons.

In 1514, the young Hans Holbein moved to Basel, Switzerland where he worked as a book illustrator, and there he became friend of some very important people, such as the Humanist Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, and it was indeed in Basle where he painted various portraits of Erasmus. In 1518 he travelled through  Italy .






 Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1523, oil on panel, 73.6 x 51.4  Collection National Gallery.  Lent to the National Gallery by Longford Castle. S/P Web Gallery of Art image. -Commons. 

He did get married in 1520 to Elsbeth, the widow of a tanner called Ulrico de Schmid.  Elsbeth was a little bit older than Holbein, she posed for her husband various times as a model.





 Hans Holbein the younger group portrait, the artist's family, his wife Elsbeth and his two elders children Philip, born around 1522 and Katherine born around 1526.  Oil and tempera on paper, subsequently cut and mounted on wood, 74,8 x 64 cm. Kunstmuseum Basel. Public domain. Commons.

Due to the religious and political conflicts in Europe at the time, Holbein decided in the year 1526/27 to go to England, he had a letter of recommendation from his friend Erasmus , to be given to Thomas More, who was a lawyer and an important figure at the Tudor Court.







Portrait study of Sir Thomas More. Black and coloured chalks on paper. 40.2 x 30.1 cm. Royal Collection, Windsor. Wikimedia Commons

Holbein was very welcome at the English Court, at the time Henry VIII was still married to Catherine of Aragon,  daughter of the Spanish Catholic Kings.






 Catherine of Aragon,  Anonymous, after a work  attributed to Johannes Corvus, 18th c. oil on panel 55.9 x 44.5 cm. Collection National Portrait Gallery NOG 163 Public Domain -  Wikimedia Commons.

In England one of the first portraits that he painted was precisely the portrait of his protector, the English Politic and Humanist Thomas More, followed by many portraits of people who were nearly always Court personages .






 Hans Holbein, portrait of Thomas Wriothesley, First Earl of Southampton. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, circa 1535. Miniature painted on vellum, laid on card, 28x25mm. - Commons.






 Margaret Roper nee More, a writer and translator, she was the Eldest daughter of Sir Thomas More. Detail from a family picture, copied from Holbein, from a now lost portrait of the woman in Thomas More's family, dated 1593. - Commons Wikimedia family details jpg.

In 1528 Holbein returned to Basel, but in 1532 decided to move back to England with the knowledge that his great friend  and protector Thomas More was now the king's Lord Chancellor. (Holbein left his family behind).






Portrait of Sir Thomas More by Hans Holbein the younger circa 1527, medium oil on oak panel , 74.9 x 60.3 cm. Google Art Project.jpg, the Frick Collection WPEnByMfBeo Sdg at Google Cultural Institute. PD.

In 1535 Hans Holbein was named "The King's Painter" producing portraits of Henry VIII and his family, also designing jewellery and other precious objects.






Portrait of Edward VI as a child, by Hans Holbein, c 1538, oil and tempera on oak. National Gallery of Art Washington. fg GYFrGD2c5Erg at Google Cultural Institute. Commons.

Sir Thomas More a fervent Catholic, opposed the ideas of Henry VIII , when the king wanted to cancel his marriages to Catherine of Aragon,  marry Anne Boleyn, and make religious changes. 





Portrait study of Cecily Heron by Hans Holbein the Younger jpg. Youngest daughter of Thomas More. Her father Thomas More was executed, her husband Giles Heron was hanged for treason in 1540. Black and colour chalk on paper c.1527, 38.4x28.3 cm. Royal Collection, Windsor Castle.- PD.  Commons Wikimedia.





Hans Holbein the Younger, portrait study of John More, (Sir Thomas More only son) black and coloured chalks on paper, 38.1 x 28.1 cm. circa 1526-27. Royal Collection, Windsor.-  Hans Holbein                                                                  http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/912226/john-more. Commons. 

Sir Thomas More refused to sign the oath  of Henry's supremacy, and so he resign from his job as Chancellor, he was then imprisoned in the Tower of London  by order of the king, accused of treason he was decapitated three months later on the 25th of July 1535.  

Sir Thomas More with his daughter while learning he was sentenced to death, author William Frederick Yeames,1875-1918. - http:cnelkurtz.blogspot.com/2010-07-01-archive html, - Wikimedia Commons.

Thomas More's head was then pierced through with a spike and hanged  and displayed  in London Bridge. After a month and just before the head was  going to be thrown into the Thames, his eldest daughter Margaret managed to obtain it and kept and preserved it until 1544 when she died, at the age of 39. It is believed that she was then buried  with her father's head inside her coffin.    





Portrait of Margaret Roper,  4.5 cm diameter, miniature by Hans Holbein the Younger, c.1535-36 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York ID110001105. Commons.  



 Portrait of William Roper by Hans Holbein the Younger, 16th century miniature,  gouache on vellum mounted on cardboard, 4.5 cm diameter . Metropolitan Museum, New York, Public Domain.- Commons .            William was a lawyer, a member of Parliament, and a High Sheriff of Kent, he married Margaret More, daughter of Sir Thomas More in 1521.

Other great protectors of Holbein eventually encountered the same end, Anne Boleyn  decapitated on the 19th May 1536,  and Thomas Cromwell beheaded on the 28th July 1540 .







 Drawing portrait of Anne Boleyn by Hans Holbein the Younger. Hans Holbein-http://www.royalcollection.org uk/collection/912189. Royal Collection, Windsor. Commons.

Hans Holbein was also a great master of the miniature painting technique, which he learned in England  from  Lucas Horenbout, and amongst other miniatures is worth mentioning the famous, wonderful and controversial portrait of Anne of Cleves, fourth wife of Henry VIII .







 Portrait of Anne of Cleves (detail) circa 1539 , part of image: Anne Cleves.jpg.originsl painting by Hans Holbein d.J - Wikimedia Commons. 

 For Royalty at this time, a way to known in advance the face of a potential  wife, was from the use of miniature portraits. They were also easy to transport.





 Portrait miniature of Elizabeth, Lady Audley by Hans Holbein the Younger, circa 1538. Watercolour on vellum, mounted on playing card, 5.6 cm diameter Royal Collection , Windsor Castle. -  Commons Wikimedia. org/w/indep.php?curid=17862340.





 Hans Holbein the Younger, Miniature Portrait  of a Man in a Red Cap,  1532-35, oil on parchment, laid down on wood, 9.5 cm diameter. Metropolitan Museum of Art. https://www.metmuseum.org/collection-online. Commons.

Following Jane Seymour's  dead, the search for a new wife started and also  negotiations with Royal European Houses, several were the candidates considered by Henry VIII, and various portraits were draw or painted.








Jane Seymour, Queen of England c 1536, author Hans Holbein the Younger, Collection  Kunsthistorisches Museum. eg E1b ExA bn BD gg at Google Cultural Institute. Commons.

In 1538, Thomas Cromwell send Holbein to Brussels, the king commissioned a portrait of Christine of Denmark, the sixteen- year- old widowed  Duchess of Milan, Holbein had a three hours drawing session, and the portrait was painted later on in England, in oil. 









 Christina of Denmark, Duchess of Milan in mourning by Hans Holbein, c1538, oil on oak panel 79,1x82.6 cm, National Gallery NG 2475. -Wikimedia Commons

Christine was a very beautiful and intelligent young lady, Henry considered her as a possible queen consort, he very much loved Holbein's portrait, but Christine was not interested in Henry VIII, she turned him down commenting "if I had two heads I would gladly  put one at the king's disposition".






 Portrait of Henry VIII at 49 (1540) by Hans Holbein , oil on panel, 88.5x74.5cm. Gallerie Nazionali d'arte antica. Palazzo Barberini, Rome.- Commons. 

Cromwell also send Holbein to France commissioning various effigies, for the king,  among them a portrait of Anne of Lorraine. (some drawings and painting of Holbein are in our days unfortunately lost).




 Portrait of Anne of Lorraine (1522-1568), wife of Rene de Chalon prince of Orange. Artist anonymous  possible after Jean van Scorel , 16th century, oil on panel 14cm diameter. www rijksmuseum.nl .- commons wikimedia org/w/indexphp/curid=23268325

Mary of Guise was another presumable future wife for Henry VIII, the king said to the French Ambassador "I am a great person and I need a great wife", apparently  on knowing this Mary responded, " I may be a great lady, but I have a small neck".  






Portrait of  Mary of Guise (1515-1560) also called Mary of Lorraine. Queen consort of James V of Scotland, and mother of Mary Queen of Scots. Author Corneille de Lyon. Scottish National Portrait Gallery . - Commons Wikimedia org/w/index php?curid=21865477. 

In Germany  Holbein also painted a portrait of Amelia the younger sister of Anne of Cleves, the two princesses were both candidates as prospective wife of Henry VIII, once the portraits were observed by the king, he choose Anne.








Hans Holbein drawing portrait of Amelia Princess of Cleves-Julich-Berg, 16th century. Source Maikes Alltags--und Fravenges chichte. Wikimedia Commons.



Although the marriage of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves was a marriage of  political convenience ,  instigated by Cromwell,  when the king sent Holbein to the Court of  Dresden in Germany in the summer 1539, he asked Holbein not to flatter the sisters, but to paint their portraits in a precise manner.





 Hans Holbein miniature portrait of a young man (believed to be Gregory Cromwell, 1st Baron Cromwell) between 1535 and 1540. Royal Collection, Netherlands pgj - https://wwwFlickr.com/photos/20631910@N03/2461994116 Wikipedia org.

The portrait of Anne that Holbein presented to the king,  was a beautiful miniature painting, an elegant composition, rich in colour and detail.




 Anne of Cleves miniature portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger.jpg, c.1539, watercolour on gum on vellum, 4.6 cm diameter. Victoria and Albert Museum. Susan Foister, Holbein in England London Tate,2006,ISBN 1854376454, qp10qp. PD. Commons. 

 When Henry saw the princess for the first time in person, in Rochester, it is well known that it was  an unfortunate encounter, and he was disappointed and annoyed by Anne's reaction. The king then commented, "I like her not".





Portrait Miniature of Henry VIII by Hans Holbein the Younger, watercolour and bodycolour on vellum, 3.6 cm diameter. Royal Collection, Windsor Castle, circa 1540-1570. Wikimedia Commons. 

Perhaps Holbein painted Anne in this portrait more attractive than what she was in person, although Holbein had the reputation of always painting the sitters with great resemblance and precision.







Engraving of a self-portrait of Hans Holbein the younger, PD.  Wiki wand.

The French Ambassador in England, Charles de Marillac described Anne as a women of middle beauty, tall and slim her hair was long and blonde, looking assured and resolute , amiable and docile, perhaps she was not as pretty as the king wished, but according to reports of the time, was neither as ugly as described in our days .





 Betrothal portrait of Anne of Cleves circa 1539, oil on parchment mounted on canvas,  65x48cm. Collection Louvre Museum. Web Gallery of Art. Commons Wikimedia org/w/index.php?curied=17285

Anne was 25 years old although she looked a little bit older, she only wrote and spoke German, she didn't have an especial education, and neither had the  abilities that the king would have liked, she was only very good at sewing, and enjoyed playing cards games. 







Portrait of Sybille of Cleves (younger sister of Anne of Cleves) by Lucas Cranach the Elder, circa 1531, oil on panel 57 x 39 cm. Foundation Bemberg, Toulouse , France. Inv 1086.- Public  Domain - Wikimedia Commons.

The wedding was postponed for a couple of days, Henry asked Cromwell to find a way to cancel the marriage, Impossible!! they could not put at risk the political alliance that they have agreed with Anne's brother, William Duke of Cleves.







Portrait of William, Duke of Julich-Cleves-Berg. Artist unknown, oil on canvas, 49x34 cm. National Museum of Stockholm . Bodil Farlsson/National Museum. Commons Wikimedia Sweden

Persuaded by Cromwell, the wedding took place, but swiftly after six month the marriage was cancelled, the king was in a hurry, he had already his eyes in a nineteen  year old young lady, her name was "Catherine Howard" a  maid- of- honour of Anne of Cleves, and a cousin of Anne Boleyn.





 Portrait of Catherine Howard Queen Consort of England. Miniature by Hans Holbein the Younger , 5.3 cm diameter, c. 1540, Royal Collection, Windsor. -     2 kimico1.com - Commons.

It was alleged that the marriage with Anne was not consummated and also the fact that the princes was betrothed to Francis Duke of Lorraine &Bar( since she was twelve years old  and Francis ten). 







Portrait of Francis I Duke of Lorraine, 16th century painting, artist unknown  Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienne . PD. Wikimedia org. 

 Although this agreement broke down in 1535. Nevertheless this provided further ground for the annulment.  Anne was quite happy to agree with the king, and so they remained good friends.







 Portrait of Anne of Cleves in the 1540s by Bartholomaus Bruyn The Elder 1493 - 1555. - www.tudorplace.com ar/about Anne of Cleves.htm. - Commons.

Henry VIII assigned a generous allowance to Anne, and gave her several residences, she was often invited to court, which she loved and had a privileged position as " the King's beloved sister". She also had a very good relationship with  Henry's daughters, Mary and Elizabeth.




 Hans Holbein the Younger, portrait of Henry VIII of England, c. 1537, oil on panel, 28 x 20 cm. Collection Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. bwFsEOEPkei3Lw at Google Cultural Institute.-Wikimedia Commons.

Anne outlived all Henry's other wives, she died on the 16th July 1557, during Mary Tudor's reign, she was 42 years old, and was buried in Westminster Abbey , London. 







 Portrait of Anne of Cleves after Holbein, from collections ND Phot.NEURDEIN frères. - Paris.- rmb-p-p- collec. 

Although the wife of Henry who lived the longest was Catherine of Aragon,  who died at the age of 51. She was also the wife who remained married to the English King for the most years .







Portrait of Catherine of Aragon, from collections ND Phot.NEURDEIN frères.- Paris. -rmb-p-p-collec.

Thomas Cromwell Earl of Essex, lost eventually the king's favour, accused  of treason, imprisoned without trial, and decapitated on Tower Hill on 28 July 1540, he was 55. Although not certain, it is often said that he suffered a terrible death as apparently the axe of the executioner was blunt.






 Portrait of Thomas Cromwell by Hans Holbein the Younger, c1532/33, oil on panel 78.4 x 64.5 cm. The Frick Collection. - Public Domain - Wikimedia Commons

Holbein's paintings, enrich in our days the European and American Museums, his work has a marvellous personal style, that progressed  year after year, showing his work an incredible attention to detail, his miniatures are pure perfection.




Hans Holbein the Younger, Miniature portrait of Henry Brandon, 2nd Duke of Suffolk, c 1541-1542, watercolour on vellum, Royal Collection, Windsor Castle,  AN. 4222204. s/p- AFGeaaWkAiK9A at Google Cultural Institute.-Commons. 






Hans Holbein the Younger , Miniature portrait of Charles Brandon, 3rd Duke of Suffolk, signed and dated 1541. Watercolour on vellum, laid on playing card, 5.5cm diameter. Royal Collection, RCIN422295.-Commons.

Although some of his work is lost, Holbein has left us a vivid record of Henry VIII's Court.




Portrait miniature of Hans Holbein, copy of Holbein's self portrait , most probably by Lucas Horenbout, watercolour on vellum, mounted on playing card, 3.7 cm diameter. Wallace Collection, London.- Wikimedia Commons.

This great artist died in England in 1543, at about the age of 45, during an epidemic plague.    

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Comments: 1
  • #1

    Barry (Saturday, 21 December 2019 14:01)

    History seems to have been unkind to Anne. Not bad looking at all.