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3BARY

IIVERSITV OF




Al and Elinor Slack



fcrf/**-



HANS HOLBEIN
THE YOUNGER



HANS HOLBEIN
THE YOUNGER

A CRITICAL MONOGRAPH BY

FORD MADOX HUEFFER













LONDON
DUCKWORTH & CO.
HENRIETTA ST. COVENT GARDEN



tOAN 5IACX



Published 1905
Reissued 191 4

HI



PRINTED AT

THE BALLANTYNE PRESS

LONDON









LIST OF PHOTOGRAVURES

Facing p,

HENRY VIII. Chatsworth. Frontispiece

SKETCH FOR PORTRAIT OF MEIER'S WIFE. Basle. 24

Photograph, Braun, Clement iff Cie., Dornach, Paris, and
New York

HOLBEIN'S PORTRAIT OF HIMSELF [PUTATIVE]. Basle. 32
Photograph, Braun, Clement iff Cie., Dornach, Paris, and
New York

THE DEAD MAN [HEAD ALONE]. Basle. 40

Photograph, Braun, Clement iff Cie., Dornach, Paris, and
New York

ST. ANNE WITH THE VIRGIN [DESIGN FOR GLASS].

Basle. 42

Photograph, Braun, Clement iff Cie., Dornach, Paris, and
New York

CHRIST BEARING THE CROSS [LATER PASSION-
SERIES]. Basle. 44

Photograph, Braun, Clement iff Cie., Dornach, Paris, and
New York

THE KNEELING KNIGHT [DESIGN FOR GLASS].

Basle. 46

Photograph, Braun, Clement iff Cie., Dornach, /'
New York

5



448



LIST OF PHOTOGRAVURES

Facing p

PORTRAIT OF A MAN [CALLED SIR THOMAS MORE].

Brussels. 56

Photograph, Hanfstaengl

STUDY FOR THE MEIER MADONNA. Basle. 58

Photograph, Braun, Clement & Cie., Doniach, Paris, and
New York

THE MEIER MADONNA. Darmstadt. 60

Photograph, Braun, Clement 55" Cie., Doniach, Paris, and
New York

BISHOP STOKESLEY OF LONDON. Windsor. 64

Photograph, Hanfstaengl

ARCHBISHOP WARHAM. Windsor. 66

Photograph, Hanfstaengl

THE GODSALVES. Dresden. 66

Photograph, Hanfstaengl

SIR HENRY GUILDFORD. Windsor. 68

Photograph, Hanfstaengl

ROBERT CHESEMAN, THE ROYAL FALCONER. The

Hague. 68

Photograph, Hanfstaengl

SIR BRIAN TUKE. Munich. 70

Photograph, Hanfstaengl

ERASMUS [MINIATURE]. Basle. 70

Photograph, Braun, Clement 5ff Cie., Doniach, Paris, and
New York

6



LIST OF PHOTOGRAVURES

Facing p.

GEORGE GISZE, MERCHANT OF THE STEELYARD.

Berlin. 72

Photograph, Braun, Clement i$ Cie., Dornach, Paris, and
i'ork



A MERCHANT OF THE STEELYARD. Windsor. 72

Photograph, Hanfstafngl

JOHN' CHAMBERS, THE PHYSICIAN. Vienna 74

Photograph, Hanfstaengl

HENRY VIII. Windsor. 7+

Photograph, Hanfstaengl

JANE SEYMOUR. Vienna. 76

Photograph, Hanfstaengl

ANNE OF CLEVES. The Louvre. 76

Photograph, Hanfstaengl

DERICK BORN. Windsor. 7 6

Photograph, Hanfstaengl

CHRISTINA, Pl'CHESS OF MILAN. The National

Gallery, London. 7$

Photograph, Braun, Clement if! Cie., Dornach, Paris, and

'■ ■ York

ROBERT SOUTHWELL. The Uffizi Gallery. 80

Photograph, Hanfstaengl

THE DUKE OF NORFOLK. Windsor 80

Photograph, Hanfstaengl



LIST OF PHOTOGRAVURES

Facing p.

PORTRAITS OF MAN AND WOMAN. Vienna. 82

Photograph, Hanfstaengl

THE AMBASSADORS. National Gallery, London. 82

Photograph, Hanfstaengl

THE SIEUR DE MORETTE. Dresden. 84

PORTRAIT STUDY FOR RESKYMER OF CORNWALL.

Windsor. 86

PORTRAIT STUDY OF THE LADY PARKER. Windsor 86



I

DURER and Holbein : Holbein and Diirer :
the two for most of mankind stand up like.
lighthouses out of the sea of Germanic
painters that one knows barely by name or that one
may know perhaps fairly well by their works. There
are Martin Schongauer, Burgkmair, Conrad Vitz,
Hans the German, Nicolas the German, the Upper
German School, the Unknown Masters, and how many
more ?

It is at least convenient roughly to consider in
one's mind that the two greater masters are for the
Germanic nations the boundary stones between the
old world and the modern, between the old faith
and the new learning, between empirical, charming
conceptions of an irrational world and the modern
theoretic way of looking at life. Diirer stood for the
great imaginers who went before. He seems to sum
up the Minnesingers, the Tristan cycles, the great
feudal conceptions. Holbein commences the age of
doubts, of merchants, of individual freedoms, of
broader ideals, of an opening world and new hopes.

Of course the moment one begins to consider the
facts of the case very closely, the differences grow
less and one sees that the two great peaks arc part
of one and the same chain. But the differences are
convenient pegs on which to hang one's arguments,
and these one may emphasize first. Holbein, for
instance, was a fresco painter. But the fresco painters



HOLBEIN

who went before him were decorative workmen.
Their frescoes were either subservient to the archi-
tecture (that is to say, they were frankly decorative),
or at least they filled in spaces, they aided the architect.
For the coming of Holbein it was necessary that archi-
tecture itself should disappear. He demanded parallel-
ograms — as it were canvases set up before him on which
to paint pictures. Thus the house became a square
box with as few as possible square windows. So it
remains to-day.

Holbein, again, painted decorations straight on to
his pictures. That is to say, he painted on his canvas,
his panel, or his paper either a frame of Renaissance
cherubs and grape vines, or he introduced into his
subject-compositions exotic decorative architecture of
a Renaissance style. In this of course he was a long way
from coming first. The Renaissance influence had
come upon him as a child in his father's studio : the
habit of painting decorative {i.e. not realistic) back-
grounds to historic subjects had existed long enough
before. Thus in a series of Biblical and historic
subjects Conrad Vitz, a Suabian painter, who died in
Basle in the first half of the fifteenth century, paints
the figures of Abishai, Julius Caesar, or Joachim with
an astonishing realism ; they march before flat,
gilded, and patterned walls which represent Bethlehem,
the battlefield of Pharsalia, or the landscape behind
the Temple of Solomon. That Conrad Vitz did this
we may put down rather to his lack of ability to paint
battlefields or landscapes than to any decorative
leanings. He simply hung up a cloth behind his
figures as did the Elizabethan actors who in front of
their blank wall displayed the legend, " This is the
Palace of the Capulets," and left the rest to the
imagination of the spectator.

Hans Fries, however, a Freiburg painter of the
10



HOLBEIN

generation immediately preceding and overlapping
that of Holbein, did actually paint perfectly realistic
pictures : he then superimposed right across the top
of the landscape-background thin decorations derived
from Renaissance vine patterns in brownish red.
Through the interstices one sees mountains, trees,
figures, and what not. Thus alike from his father
and from his age Holbein drank in the spirit of the
Renaissance in its Germanic form.

From his father he inherited a gift far more valuable,
a gift that has survived the Renaissance itself, a gift
that leaves Holbein still far enough ahead of the most
modern of the moderns — a gift of keenly observing his
fellow-men, and of rendering them dispassionately.
And indeed I am tempted so far to digress from my
immediate line as to interpolate the remark that
medievalism stands for the love of outdoor nature,
whilst the Renaissance revelled in the human form and
in natural objects conventionalized. " Convention-
alized " means humanized, your decorator taking an
acanthus leaf and treating it so arbitrarily that it will
fill any space on the inside or the exterior of a human
dwelling-house. Holbein, as far as we know, cared
comparatively little for what to-day we call Nature.
He was the painter of men and cities, and inasmuch as
modern life is a matter of men and cities, he was the
first painter of modern life.

His landscapes are very few and not very significant.
The one that most immediately occurs to one is that
in the design of Death and the Ploughman in the Dance
of Death series. On the other hand, his renderings
of interiors, of implements, of carpets and musical
instruments are not only innumerable, they are
instinct with that pure love of the objects themselves
that Diirer gave to his renderings of landscapes.

The life which Diirer's art seems to close was an

1 1



HOLBEIN

out-of-door life, or at least it was a life that was passed
outside of great cities. His lords ride hunting in full
steel from small castles on ragged and rather Japanese-
looking crags ; his Christ upon the Mount of Olives
kneels beside a stunted crag ; his Samson slays the lion
in a Rhineland landscape.

The flesh of his figures is hardened, dried, and
tanned by exposure to the air ; his whole conception
of the external world was more angular, more as if
in early youth he had got into his mind that feeling
of rocks, of broken trees, or of a luxuriant vegetation.
When, as in the Melancholia design, he renders imple-
ments, tools, shaped stones, and other symbolic
objects, he renders them not because he loves them
for themselves, but because they are parts of his
design.

Holbein's lords no longer ride hunting. They are
inmates of palaces, their flesh is rounded, their limbs
at rest, their eyes sceptical or contemplative. They
are indoor statesmen ; they deal in intrigues ; they
have already learnt the meaning of the words, " The
balance of the Powers," and in consequence they wield
the sword no longer ; they have become sedentary
rulers. Apart from minute differences of costume,
of badges round their necks, or implements which
lie beside them on tables — differences which for us
have already lost their significance — Holbein's great
lords are no longer distinguishable from Holbein's
great merchants. Indeed the portrait of the Sieur de
Morette has until quite lately been universally regarded
as that of Gilbert Morett, Henry VIIFs master-
jeweller.

Holbein obviously was not responsible for this
change in the spirit of the age ; but it was just because
these changed circumstances were sympathetic to
him, just because he could so perfectly render them,
12



HOLBEIN

that he became the great painter of his time. Diirer
was a mystic, the last fruit of a twilight of the gods.
In his portraits the eyes dream, accept, or believe
in the things they see. Thus his Ulrich Varnbuler,
Chancellor of the Empire, a magnificent, fleshy man,
gazes into the distance unseeingly, for all the world
like a poet in the outward form of a brewer's drayman.
The eyes in Holbein's portraits of queens are half
closed, sceptical, challenging, and disbelieving. They
look at you as if to say : " I do not know exactly what
manner of man you are, but I am very sure that being
a man you are no hero." This, however, is not a
condemnation, but a mere acceptance of the fact that,
from Pope to peasant, poor humanity can never be
more than poor humanity.

It is a common belief, and very possibly a very true
belief, that painters in painting figures exaggerate
physical and mental traits so that the sitters assume
some of their own physical peculiarities. (Thus
Borrow accuses Benjamin Robert Haydon of painting
all his figures too short in the legs, because Haydon's
own legs were themselves disproportionately small.)
One might therefore argue from the eyes of Holbein's
pictures that the man himself was a good-humoured
sceptic who had seen a great deal of life and took
things very much as they came. On the other hand,
Diirer, according to the same theory, must have been
a man who saw beside all visible objects their poetic
significance, their mystical doubles. But perhaps
it is safer to say that the dominant men of Diirer's
day were really dreamers, whilst those who employed
Holbein were essentially sceptics, knowing too much
about mankind to have many ideals left. For Holbein
flourished and Diirer was already on the wane in the
davs of the Humanists and of the New Learning. And
was it not that bitter, soured, and disappointed Duke

13



HOLBEIN

of Norfolk whom Holbein painted like a survival from
the olden times, standing up rigid and unbending in
a new world that seemed to him a sea of errors — who
had been a great captain, to become later a miserable
and trembling Catholic politician in a schismatic
court — was it not that Duke of Norfolk who first said :
" It was merry in England before this New Learning
came in " ?



H



II

HANS HOLBEIN the younger, the son, the
nephew, and the brother of painters, was
born in 1497-98 in Augsburg, a town in those
days world-famous, in which there flourished not
only the spirit of cc xmerce, but the spirit of adventure
and the spirit ot the arts. Its great merchants
travelled, the first idea of the New World across
the water having already reached them ; the Fuggers
were there ; Peutinger had been to Italy unnumbered
times, and it is even recorded that his four-year-old
daughter could make a speech in Latin upon such
state occasions as when the Emperor visited the
city.

There were, moreover, great monastic establish-
ments, great convents, and great churchmen. It was,
in fact, Augsburg, a world-city in the modern sense
of the term ; not only was it prosperous, but under
the influence of the commerces and the cultures of a
newly awakening world, it was growing almost as
rapidly as the great modern cities began to grow in
the opening years of the nineteenth century. It was
constantly visited by the then Emperor Maximilian,
who brought with him in his train more men of great
learning, of great influence, and of great taste. Small
wonder, then, that the plastic arts flourished.

They flourished because in the first place there was
what we call nowadays " a great demand," and in
the second place because the new influence that was

IS



HOLBEIN

abroad in the world, the new leaven, a sort of new
impatience, the eternal aliquid novi ex Italia which
exercised and always exercises so potent and so dis-
turbing an influence upon the Germanic races — this
great new impatience that we call the Renaissance
had set, in Augsburg, all sorts of fingers itching to
do great things with the reed-pen of the scholar,
the brush of the painter, the style of the engraver.
There was in Augsburg a Painters' Zunft, a sort of
painters' and glaziers' guild, that had offered to it as
much work as its members could well compass. It
had its own Guild Hall in the market-place, where its
members could meet, discuss and learn from the new
wood-engravings, the new printed books, and all the
new things that came to them so plentifully. The
members of this guild designed windows, decorations
for houses, dagger-sheaths, and costumes for pageants.
Those of them who were more purely painters painted
sacred pictures, Stations of the Cross, Apotheoses,
and scenes from the lives of patron saints of the great
abbeys. When, a little later, the Emperor took up a
nearly permanent residence in Augsburg, he employed
not only most of the Augsburg painters, but many
foreign artists, even Durer himself, to make historical
and religious designs for him.

The father of Holbein was a member of the Zunjt
and no doubt enjoyed a certain share of the patronage
which fell upon it. But, if we may hazard inferences,
he was not among the most popular of the painters ;
he was not employed by the Emperor, though his
comrade Hans Burgkmair worked along with Durer.
He seems, however, to have had his fair share of
religious paintings to execute. Thus in St. Catherine's
Convent towards 1509 he painted the Basilica des
heiligen Petrus, beside Burgkmair's Basilica des heiligen
Kreuzes. Nevertheless the few records that we have
16



HOLBEIN

of his life in the town records in Augsburg point to
the fact that he was in chronic poverty. Thus he
was frequently more than a year in arrears with his
town-rates ; he was sued for butcher's meat. And
the last sad record that we have of him was that his
furniture was sold at the suit of his brother Sigismund
Holbein for non-payment of a small debt.

Perhaps we may comfort ourselves with the thought
that he was ahead of his time. The few pictures of
his still extant, such as the St. Sebastian in Munich,
show him to have been a painter of no small skill
and an observer of the very highest. And the mar-
vellous collection of portraits of his comrades and
colleagues in his sketch-book, now in the Berlin
National Gallery, is in no sense inferior to the Windsor
Castle series of sketches for portraits of his son. There
are the same firmness of line, the same perfection of
drawing, the same intense individuality, the same
free and consummate putting of a head on paper,
and an even greater insight into character. One is
tempted to theorize too far ; but it would seem as if
the comparatively obscure father had had granted to
him by reason of his misfortunes a greater sympathy, a
greater insight, as if by tribulation he became more of
a poet than his son who grew prosperous and had,
as was the lot of painters in those days, the cities
and the potentates of the earth contending for his
favours.

His sympathy for Renaissance decorations appears
to have been a zest as childlike and self-abandoned
as that which his son showed in his early years. And
it is probable that this taste rather than much actual
skill in painting was all that Holbein the younger
learned directly of his father. He inherited, however,
his father's temperament, to which he added an
incomparable skill in painting that was all his own.

b 17



HOLBEIN

When he was seventeen, or eighteen at any rate, he
left his father's house, and eventually reached Basle
towards 15 15.

He made his wander-year apparently with his elder
brother Ambrosius, himself a painter of no mean order.
Of where they went we have no trace, but that they
did not come straight to Basle is apparent enough.
For in 15 14 a Domherr of the Minister at Constance
ordered from him a Madonna and Child, which,
after having lain undiscovered until 1876 in the village
of Rickenbach near Constance, is now in the Holbein
Collection at Basle.

This charming and naive little picture shows us
what were the attainments of Holbein when he had
left his father's studio and had not yet come under
the influences that were then to be felt in Basle. He
painted it probably in payment for his lodging, or
received in return a few small coins, just as wandering
organ repairers, wandering tailors, shoemakers, and
tinkers have in Germany, for so many centuries since,
kept themselves going from town to town, picked up
a knowledge of the world, and learned new secrets of
their crafts. It shows us a Holbein who was already
at seventeen a consummate Renaissance decorator.
The little cherubs who climb upon the painted
frame, who blow instruments, who offer votive
tablets, the painted frame itself, and the garlands of
laurel leaves which hang down behind the Virgin's
head, these are done with a perfectly sure touch and
a wonderfully grasped knowledge of what it is possible
to do with conventionalized babies' figures. But
the moment the boy came to paint the real baby in
its mother's arms he grew timid, uncertain, and what
nowadays we call " amateurish." The head is too
large, the eyes out of line, and the flesh painted
with a curious little woolly touch. The conception
18



HOLBEIN

and pose of the Madonna are, as I have said, naive
and tender, and the feeling of the whole picture is
excellent. It is mostly perhaps in the feet of the
Christ-child that we see any foreshadowing of the
great draughtsman and the great realist that he was
subsequently to become. So equipped, then, did
Holbein leave his father's house. He had learned
what it is open to most boys of genius to learn — the
attractive and perhaps flashy conventionalities that
were available. Possibly his father cared more for
this side of his own influence, and neglected, as many
artists neglect, his own real genius. He may, in fact,
never have influenced his son towards Realism, or,
on the other hand, his son may not have cared for it.
At any rate, as far as we can judge, Holbein matured
much more slowly in the direction of the gift for which
to-day we most honour him.

[It must be remembered that biographical details
regarding Holbein are largely conjectural and more
than largely controversial. It is perfectly possible
that Holbein did not make, strictly speaking, a " wander
year " at this time, for there is very good evidence to
support the idea that his father, and indeed his
whole family, moved at about this time from Augsburg
to Lucerne. Confusion constantly arises at about
this time between Holbein the younger and his father.
For instance, it is difficult to be certain whether the
Hans Holbein who became a citizen of Lucerne
and a member of the Painters' Guild there, and the
Hans Holbein who in the same year was fined for
brawling in Lucerne — whether that Hans Holbein
were the elder or the younger. Some theorists hold
that the younger Hans aided his father in the great
St. Sebastian picture. But there is little evidence,
either historic or plastic, to support this. I am,



HOLBEIN

however, scarcely concerned with the historic facts
of Holbein's career. It may be taken as fairly certain
that Holbein the younger did paint this Madonna,
and probably at Constance — for it is unlikely that the
Domherr Johann von Botzenheim would have sent
to Lucerne a commission to a boy of seventeen or
eighteen. At any rate we may accept the picture as
some sort of evidence of what at that date was Holbein's
technical ability. We may infer that he had then left
his father's studio, whether at Lucerne or Augsburg,
and that very probably he was on his way to Basle.]



20



Ill

WE find Holbein next for certain at Basle,
where in the year 1515 Leo X's " Breve ad
Erasmum " appeared in the third edition,
published by Johannes Frobenius with a title-page
designed by Holbein.

The Switzerland that Holbein first knew resembled
the Japan of the day before yesterday. It was just
receiving the new tide — the tide equivalent to that of
the Japanese Western civilization. Basle itself was
essentially a Germanic town, though by this time only
officially a city of the Empire.

Its institutions, its faith, its art, and its literature
were still generally Gothic or Teutonic. But the other
tide which we call the Renaissance had already begun
to reach Basle, if not to affect the laws, the institutions,
or the people of the city.

The tide was, as it were, definitely attracted to her
bv the artists, and more particularly by the great
printers, who were themselves assuredly great artists.
Frobenius and Amcrbach were already what we might
call the official printers of the Humanists. The
greatest of them all, Erasmus, a man of universal
fame, had at that time just left France. He had
appeared at the printing-house of Frobenius, and in
[CIC was already sharing with him the house " Zum
Sessel am Fiscbmarkt" to which the young Holbeins
must have gone as desisjner^ seeking work.

But when Holbein first came to Basle, the New

21



HOLBEIN

Learning was still a thing existing mostly for the lettered
classes, and the new faith, if it had there made progress
at all, manifested itself mostly in an uneasy discontent
amongst the lowest people.

Holbein's first visit to Basle appears to have been of
quite short duration ; possibly it lasted for a year and
a half. The most usual German theory is that, with
the idea of qualifying himself for a member of the
Basle Guild " 7/um Himmel" he apprenticed himself
to a Basle painter. He then, the theory proceeds,
executed various pieces of supervised painting. Sup-
posing this to have been the case, he would merely have
supplied colour to designs made or generally indicated
by his master. The extreme German theorists go
so far as to identify the master with Hans Herbster,
the painter ; this on the strength of the fact that one
of the Holbeins painted a portrait of Herbster in
1516.

We may accept these theories or not, but the point
is, to what extent, if any, the teaching of this suppositive
master affected Holbein's technical abilities ? In the
Basle Museum there is a series of pictures of the Passion
of Christ, which presents one with serious problems of
thought. In the first place there appears to be com-
paratively little doubt that the pictures are actually
by Holbein. Holbein's friend Bonifacius Amerbach in
after years made a careful collection of all the Holbein
pictures and drawings that he could lay his hands on.
This collection forms the nucleus of the fine series
of Holbeins now in the possession of the town of
Basle.

In Amerbach's own catalogue The Last Supper of
this series is called : Hans Holbeins erster Arbeiten eine,


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