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Royal Collection © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Sir John Godsalve (c.1505-1556)
XQG 2002 349
A portrait drawing of Sir John Godsalve (c.1505-1556). A half length portrait facing three-quarters to the right. He wears a fur collar, black gown, blue sleeves and is holding a letter. Inscribed in an eighteenth-century hand at upper left and to the left of the ear: Sr Iohn Godsalue. S John Godsalue.
John Godsalve was first portrayed by Holbein in 1528 alongside Sir Thomas Godsalve, his well-connected father (Dresden, Gemäldegalerie). From the apparent age of the sitter, the portrait can be dated to the early years of the artist's second English sojourn. Godsalve's acquaintance with Holbein would easily have been renewed at this time, for he had been appointed to the Office of the Common Meter of Precious Tissues in 1532, bringing him into frequent contact with the Hanseatic merchants who were Holbein's main patrons following his return to England in the same year. It was perhaps this appointment that prompted Godsalve to commission a portrait of himself alone.
The status of the present drawing is, however, problematic. It is the only one of Holbein's drawings at Windsor to be fully worked up in colours, and the subtle trompe-l'oeil of the right arm resting on a ledge further suggests that it was drawn as a finished work of art. It is conceivable that the drawing was intended to be pasted to a panel, thus serving the same function as a painting (some Holbein portraits of this type do survive), but the presence of the drawing at Windsor implies that it was still in Holbein's studio at his death and had not been delivered to the sitter. In the Philadelphia Museum of Art is another half-length painting of Godsalve, at about the same age, wearing similar clothes and the same cap and also holding a folded letter, but the painting does not depend compositionally on the present drawing in any detail; nor is it by Holbein, and its relationship to the present drawing remains problematic.
Catalogue entry from Royal Treasures, A Golden Jubilee Celebration, London 2002