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Royal Collection © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Johannes Froben (1460-1527)
XQG 1978 Holbein 4
Hans Holbein the Younger was born in Augsburg where he was trained by his father, Hans Holbein the Elder. He became a member of the painter's guild at Basel in 1519. He visited France in 1524 and first visited London in 1526-8. He returned to England in 1532 and shortly afterwards was employed by Henry VIII for whom he painted numerous portraits of the King, the Royal Family and members of the court. Holbein remained in royal service until his death (probably caused by plague) in 1543.
Johannes Froben was a successful printer and worked closely with Holbein. This the most accomplished of the few surviving rectangular-format versions of the portraits of Froben by Holbein and is thought to be by the artist’s own hand, painted in Basel around 1522-3.
The face sensitively records the sitter’s wisdom and age, and the textures of skin, hair and the fur collar are presented with consummate skill. The original Latin inscription on the stone ledge identifies both the sitter and the artist.
A portrait of Erasmus by a follower of Holbein (RCIN 403036) may have been commissioned specifically to act as a pair to the portrait of Froben. X-rays have revealed that originally both paintings shared the same green curtain in the background. Consequently it is possible that the original owner of both portraits was Froben himself, and that he wanted to create a ‘friendship diptych’, a popular notion at the time to demonstrate a personal bond by pairing portraits (see also RCIN 405759).
Text adparted from 'The Northern Renaissance: Durer to Holbein', London 2011