Erasmus of Rotterdam

Artist: Hans Holbein the Younger (German, Augsburg 1497/98–1543 London) (and Workshop(?))

Date: ca. 1532

Medium: Oil on linden panel

Dimensions: 7 1/4 x 5 9/16 in. (18.4 x 14.2 cm); painted surface 6 15/16 x 5 1/2 in. (17.6 x 14 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Robert Lehman Collection, 1975

Accession Number: 1975.1.138

Description

Hans Holbein the Younger was one of the most celebrated portraitists of the sixteenth century. At an early age he won commissions to paint portraits of prominent merchants in Basel, and in later years he attracted powerful patrons in England, including Sir Thomas More. Holbein made several portraits of the great humanist and scholar Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466/1469 - 1536). Shown in half-length three-quarter profile, his hands just visible between the fur cuffs of his coat, Erasmus is depicted as he appeared around 1530, when he was about sixty. Tufts of the sitter's gray hair poke out from beneath his black cap, deep lines mark the area around his mouth, and the skin shows signs of loosening below his stubbly chin, but the sensitivity and intensity of Erasmus's scholarly mind are still richly apparent in his piercing dark eyes. Holbein's close association with the humanist and scholar is reflected not only in these and other admiring portraits but also in the letters of introduction written on Holbein's behalf by Erasmus to his friends in England when the artist traveled there in 1526. It was through Erasmus that Holbein was commissioned to paint portraits of Sir Thomas More and his family. The white label painted at the upper left of this panel is a later addition, made some fifty years after Holbein's death when the painting was in the collection of John, Lord Lumley of Surrey and London.

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