Holbein, Hans

Holbein, Hans an eminent Swiss painter, designer, and wood-engraver, was born at Basle in 1498, although some think he was a native of Augsburg. He was the son and scholar of John Holbein, who settled at Basle, and resided there during the rest of his life. At the age of fifteen Hans manifested great abilities, and painted portraits of himself and his father, which were engraved in 1512. He was invited by an English nobleman to visit England, but declined the invitation. Several years afterwards he formed an intimacy with Erasmus, and painted his portrait. The latter persuaded him to go to England, and gave him a letter to Sir Thomas More. On arriving in London. he sought out that nobleman, who received him with kindness, giving him apartments in his house. One day Holbein, happening to mention the nobleman who some years before had invited him to England, Sir Thomas was desirous of knowing who it was. Holbein replied that he had forgotten the title, but thought he could draw his likeness from memory; and this he did so strongly that it was immediately recognised. This peer was either the earl of Arundel or the earl of Surrey. Holbein was introduced by Sir Thomas to Henry VIII, who immediately took him into his service, assigning him apartments in the palace, with a liberal pension. On the death of Jane Seymour, Holbein was sent to Flanders to draw the portrait of Christiana, duchess dowager of Milan. He painted in oil, distemper, and water-colors. He had never practiced the last until he went to England, where he acquired the art from Lucas Corneli. There are but a few historical works by Holbein in England. The most important is that in the Surgeons' Hall, of Henry VIII Granting the Charter to the Company of Surgeons. At Basle.are eight pictures of the Passion of Christ; and in the library of the. University a Dead Christ, painted on a panel, in 1521. "It has been doubted whether the celebrated Dance of Death was originally designed by Holbein; but this has been occasioned by confounding the sets of prints of the Dance of Death engraved by Matthew Merian with the wooden cuts by Holbein, after his own designs, the originals of which are preserved in the public library at Basle." As a wood-engraver, Holbein is said to have executed some works as early as 1511, and he engraved a great many wood-cuts for the publishers of Basle, Zurich, Lvons, and Leyden. The most important of these are a set of wood-cuts, entitled, The Dance of Death, which, complete, consists of fifty-three small upright plates, but is seldom found above forty-six. There are also, by Holbein, a set of ninety small cuts of subjects from the Old Test., which were published at-Lyons in 1539. He made a number of designs from the Bible, which were engraved and published at Leyden in 1547. Holbein died at London in 1554. For a list of his works, see Spooner, Biog. Hist. of the Fine Arts, s.v.

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