Holbein: Court Painter of the Reformation

By Pettegree, Andrew | History Today, February 1998 | Go to article overview

Holbein: Court Painter of the Reformation


Pettegree, Andrew, History Today


Andrew Pettegree charts

Hans Holbein's path

from Germany to England

and points to the

ironies of his reputation

as a great Protestant painter.

Hans Holbein, who was born

500 years ago this year, was

one of the great painters of

the northern Renaissance. Born and

raised in Augsburg, he achieved

lasting fame in England, as the leading

artist at the court of Henry VIII.

Holbein's paintings of the king, his wives

and courtiers, provide some of the

most famous images of the age, and

enshrined his place in the trinity of

the great German artists of the

Reformation: Durer, Holbein, and

Cranach. Yet there is a certain irony

in celebrating Holbein as a great

Protestant painter. Holbein's career

was closely interwoven with the

events of the Reformation. He was

patronised by some of its leading

figures, and produced some fine

examples of the new Protestant art.

But personally he viewed Protestantism

with some distaste, not least

for its adverse effect on the artistic

traditions in which he had been

raised.

Hans Holbein came from a family

of artists. His father, Hans Holbein

the elder, was an accomplished

painter of religious paintings who

had made a distinguished career in

the German city of Augsburg. His

altarpiece for the city's Moritzkirche

was one of the most important paintings

recently commissioned by the

city fathers. Holbein's two sons, Hans

and Ambrosius (also a talented

painter, though he would die tragically

young), would have received

their early training in their father's

workshop, before in 1514 the two

boys moved together from Augsburg

to Basle. For young men eager to

make their way in the world this was

a shrewd choice. In the early decades

of the sixteenth century Basle was

one of the greatest cities of Europe,

and certainly one of its most

cultivated and cultured. Strategically

placed on the crossroads of Europe's

major trade routes, the city and

its university were already famous

through their association with Erasmus

and the other leaders of the new

intellectual movement of humanism.

Most importantly, Basle was also

one of Europe's leading centres of

book production, and it is quite

possibly this which attracted the young

artists to the city. In this period the

new science of book publishing

offered rich opportunities for the

graphic arts, but it was only the richest

and best established publishing

houses which had the capital to

embark on prestige projects which

required elaborate illustrated title-pages,

borders, and text illustrations.

In Basle, Holbein quickly made his

name as one of the finest exponents

of the new arts of the design of

woodcuts and engravings. Among his work

during this period was a superb

series of illustrations for bibles and

Old Testaments published in 1522,

1524 and 1526, the years when the

awakening interest in the new

evangelical teachings of Martin Luther

produced an almost insatiable

demand for vernacular scripture.

Holbein's designs had no particular

confessional slant: he also provided the

designs for illustrations of conventional

devotional literature. But he

used these years to cultivate contacts

among Basle's ruling elite, particularly

the humanist milieu which

would provide some of the most

outspoken exponents of religious

change. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Holbein: Court Painter of the Reformation
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.