6 of 314 portraits by Hans Holbein the Younger
- Tudor and Jacobean Portraits Database
after Hans Holbein the Younger
oil on panel, early 17th century, based on a work of 1527
32 3/8 in. x 26 1/8 in. (822 mm x 663 mm)
Key findings: The portrait dates from after 1605 and is apparently later than another version (Lambeth Palace) which is by a different workshop. There is extensive underdrawing, principally from a pattern.
The picture was first recorded at Ditchley with the Lee family (Earls of Lichfield; Viscounts Dillon). It was presented in 1925 by Harold Arthur, 17th Viscount Dillon in memory of Julia, Viscountess Dillon.
Warham was one of the first of Holbein’s English sitters to be drawn and painted soon after the artist arrived in England in 1527. The original drawing for the portrait is in the Royal Collection at Windsor. Matthew Parker records in his biography of the archbishop that Holbein made two versions of his painted portrait Warham: one for Erasmus (now untraceable) and the other for the Archbishop’s residence, Lambeth Palace. The archiepiscopal cross to the sitter's right in the painting is enamelled with the arms of Warham impaling those of the see of Canturbury (see micro 13).
A surviving original portrait of Warham by Hans Holbein is now in the Louvre. This painting appears to be the Lambeth Palace original which was sold in the later sixteenth century to the collection of a Flemish agent Andreas de Loo (before 1530-1590) from whom it passed to Thomas Howard, the Earl of Arundel (1585-1646), entering the collection of Louis XIV by sale in 1671.
Two copies of the original Holbein painting are NPG 2094 and another at Lambeth Palace. The National Portrait Gallery version may have been purchased or commissioned by the Lee family in the early seventeenth century to augment their existing collection of Tudor portraiture. Strong suggested in 1969 that the Lambeth version was commissioned by Archbishop Sandys (1519-88) ‘to replace the original Holbein when sold to de Loo’ (Strong, 1969, p. 324). This remains possible, but as yet there appears to be no documentary evidence to support this.
Notes on likely authorship
The handling of the paint and the overall appearance of the picture has the effect of a talented early seventeenth-century copyist, who has faithfully replicated Holbein’s composition and a significant amount of the detail found in the original picture. The tracing and draughtsmanship is extremely detailed and it appears likely that the artist had access to both a pattern and the original painting. Tracings of both the National Portrait Gallery and Lambeth versions reveal a very close correlation in individual elements, but not an exact match across the overall picture.
Commentary on painting style, technique
The handling of the paint does not bear comparison to Holbein’s technique. However, the artist has gone to considerable effort to make a faithful, if ultimately rather deliberate copy. The work is highly decorative, employing gilding in the same areas as in the original picture.
This painting is quite thickly and deliberately painted, and is built up very systematically with a great deal of thick brushstrokes. The work has a complex layer structure (notably in the green background) and widespread use has been made of glazes. Some of the thick layers of red glaze on the mitre have flaked off. Care has been taken in replicating different types of effects. The sumptuous material of the cushion however was created with a different type of technique using mordant gilding to create a slightly more raised, textured pattern.
Justification for dating
This version may have been produced when the Louvre version was still in England, either in the possession of the Flemish agent Andreas de Loo or when in the collection of the Earl of Arundel. It was recorded in his collection in 1621 and 1655.
The technique and materials in use are entirely consistent with a work from this period. Analysis by dendrochronolgy suggests a date after 1605. The construction of the panel suggests that it was prepared by a craftsman without thorough knowledge of the standard construction of sixteenth-century panel supports. Panels were still in use at this date but were quickly falling out of fashion to be replaced by canvas. They were still being used more frequently in the Netherlands.
Drawing and transfer technique
Infrared reflectography revealed extremely detailed underdrawing, with all elements of the composition firmly outlined and all very carefully plotted. This drawing can be seen through the paint surface in many places, particularly in the face. The bold, definite lines of underdrawing indicate tracing, but there are also some additions made freehand. The drawing is executed by a very controlled hand although it was difficult to tell if the medium used was liquid or dry. The face is completely underdrawn – largely traced - with lines which delineate all the features and wrinkles, and some broad hatching indicates areas of shading. The hands also appear strongly traced, with some reinforcements.
The pattern of the background drapery is also underdrawn and lines can be seen where the painted shapes have not followed the drawn pattern precisely. The costume is also extensively underdrawn and the texture of the fur is marked in with zig-zag lines and individual marks to show the direction of the fur. As would be expected, no pentimenti are evident.
Comparison with the pattern of the Royal Collection drawing by Holbein and the Lambeth Palace version in October 2008 was instructive. The pattern for the Holbein drawing matched the facial features extremely closely suggesting either that patterns from the drawings had been produced for other versions or that the pattern used for the original Holbein painting remained consistent and was itself the model for later patterns. This indicates either that patterns were used in several pieces or that a whole pattern may have slipped during transfer. The Lambeth palace version would appear stylistically to be earlier than the NPG version. The entire patterns of both the Lambeth and NPG paintings do not match in all aspects, however individual elements do match which suggests that there would have been several separate patterns – perhaps as many as six - used for different areas of the picture. Further comparative investigation into the Louvre painting, in particular the comparison of infrared reflectograms, would be informative.
Relevance to other known versions
Two original versions may have been made by Holbein:
- for Erasmus in return for his own portrait by Holbein (now untraceable)
- for the Archbishop’s residence, Lambeth Palace (now in the Louvre) INV.1344
The two known copies ‘after Holbein’ are:
- Lambeth Palace (commissioned by Archbishop Sandys 1519-88 to replace the original Holbein) 53
- NPG 2094
Dillon, Harold Arthur Lee, Catalogue of Paintings in the Possession of the Right Honourable Viscount Dillon, at Ditchley, Spelsbury, Oxfordshire, 1908, no. 44, p. 30
Foister, Susan, 'Workshop or Followers? Underdrawing in Some Portraits Associated with Hans Holbein the Younger', in Proceedings of the 9th Louvain-la-Neuve, Colloque sur le dessin sous-jacent dans la peinture, 1991, pp. 113-124.
Hearn, Karen, ed., Dynasties: Painting in Tudor and Jacobean England 1530-1630, Tate Gallery, 1995, pp. 23-26
Hearne, Thomas, Reliquiae Hernianae: The Remains of T. H., 2 vols., 1857, I, p. 398
Holmes, Charles John, Self and Partners (Mostly Self), 1947, p. 295
Strong, Roy, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 1969, pp. 323-324
Exhibition of the Royal House of Tudor, The New Gallery, 1890, pp. 39-40 (no. 107)
'Three Historical Portraits', The Times, 24th October 1925
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Compare high-resolution images against the painting - mainly x-ray and infra-red photography images, but sometimes UV or raking light images - side by side with the ability to zoom in on details.
The painting was cleaned and old overpaint removed in 2001. The paint layers are generally in good condition, although there are some raised cracks in parts of the fur. The panel is relatively thin, and the right-hand (from front) join is slightly unstable, causing the panel to flex and bend along it. There is some raised paint along this join, and possibly a new loss. Otherwise, restoration carried out in 2001 is sound and the varnish and retouchings have not discoloured. The mould noted on the back in 2006 has not recurred.
The picture should not be lent because of the fragility of the panel joins.
Number of boards: 3
Panel Orientation: Vertical
Panel condition observations
The panel has an uneven convex warp: the left-hand and central board form a continuous curve, but the right-hand board has a curve of its own. The joins are supported on the back with pieces of canvas (which are a repair) but the right-hand join is not completely sound - there is a slight gap, and the boards move along this join. There are rough tool-marks across the back of the panel, and there are also patches of varnish/adhesive over the back, presumably associated with the attachment of the pieces of canvas. Another piece of canvas is attached at the right-hand edge, near the top. There are small notches/indentations around the edges of the panel, probably from nails used to fit the painting in a frame. There are some wormholes in the band of sapwood at the far right-hand edge.
An examination of tree rings, which can help to provide the earliest possible felling dates for the wood used for the panel. The technique can also indicate the geographical origin of the wood.
Number of boards: 3
Last date of tree ring: 1600
For analysis the boards were labelled A to C from the left (from the front). The last tree rings on the two boards that could be measured (B and C) dated to 1597 and 1600. Board B was entirely heartwood, and adding the minimum expected number of sapwood rings suggests that the tree used to make the board cannot have been felled before 1605. Board C had three sapwood rings, and therefore, the last heartwood ring also dated from 1597. Adding the minimum and maximum expected number of sapwood rings to this suggested that the tree used for this board was felled between 1605 and 1621. These results indicate that the panel can be no earlier than 1605 and is likely to pre-date 1621.
A technique used to identify changes in composition beneath the surface of the paint layers and to understand the physical structure of a panel or canvas.
X-rays of the head and the hands were studied by Joyce Plesters (National Gallery) in 1961. She noted that these x-rays, which showed vigorous undermodelling of the face and hands and incised lines for the lettering, were very similar to the Lambeth version, and concluded that the two paintings are by the same hand. However, it was observed that the x-rays of these are both very different from the technique seen in x-rays of known Holbein paintings.
X-rays made in 2008 (see x-ray mosaic 01) showed:
- sweeping brushstrokes in different directions across the whole surface, which are presumably to do with a lead-containing priming/preparation layer
- the brocade background appears light on the x-ray where it is darker under the painting. This is unexpected, but indicates that under the darker green glaze is a layer of a lead-containing paint. This would also provide the slight relief pattern visible on the surface
- areas of damage down the panel joins, around the edges (particularly to the right of the mitre, in the lower-right corner, and at the centre of the lower edge), and just to the right of the crucifix
- the face is painted with short, almost feathery, brushstrokes, and with much paint containing lead white
- as is to be expected with a copy, no pentimenti were evident
- parts of the panel construction: a nail about halfway down, between the centre and right (from front) planks and a wooden batten near the top, between the centre and right (from front) planks
A technique used to observe the layers beneath the paint surface which can reveal underdrawing and changes to the initial design.
The underdrawing detected with infrared reflectography is very extensive, and virtually all elements of the composition have been recorded prior to painting. The bold, definite lines indicate reinforcement over a tracing (see IRR mosaic 01). It is extremely difficult to tell if the medium used was wet or dry. The zig-zag lines would be very difficult to draw with a brush, but might be possible with a pen.
The face is completely underdrawn with lines which delineate all the features and wrinkles, and some broad hatching indicates areas of shading. The hairline along the forehead is also drawn as a line. The hands are similarly strongly outlined - probably traced. It is probable that tracings/patterns were used for the head and each hand, but that the costume did not need a tracing. Freehand lines were probably also drawn in the face; however, the central line of the mouth between the lips appears traced. The other obviously traced lines are those of the profile, nose, and crease from nose to chin.
The fur and robes are also wholly underdrawn. The texture of the fur is marked in with zig-zag lines, and individual marks to show the direction of the fur. In some places in the coat/surplice zig-zag lines seem to indicate areas of shadow, but mostly the folds and shadows are drawn in with definite lines which are followed almost exactly by the paintings. The cuffs are outlined with small, wavy zig-zag lines, and texture and shading are indicated by the drawing here too.
Some slightly more free lines are visible at the lower edge, marking out the shapes of the cushion and tassel. The pattern on the cushion has some underdrawing.
The book is outlined firmly but not ruled. The pattern on the carpet between the book and mitre, however, does seem to have been ruled. Details of the mitre and crucifix are probably drawn, but much is obscured by the gold. The pattern in the background drapery was found to be underdrawn. Lines can be seen where the painted shapes have not followed the drawn pattern precisely.
In a letter to Robin Gibson dated 10/11/1994, Susan Foister noted that the Lambeth version of this picture had been found to have been pounced.
Investigation into microscopic pigment samples or samples of other media in order to help with dating, to reveal the order of the paint layers and help to understand the painting techniques used.
Paint samples were taken to analyse the pigments and layer structure of the painting in 2008.
The chalk ground was visible in several samples. This appears to have been darkened slightly at the top, beneath the paint, perhaps by oil medium from the superimposed paint layers or by additional glue in the upper chalk layers. The grey priming contains lead white and plant black.
Vermilion and red lake, charcoal black and white.
The hands are the same mixture as the face but with smaller proportion of red.
Mitre: Azurite in the mitre, in the white of the pearls and in the central jewel.
White impasto in the central triangle contains charcoal black and azurite.
Samples 6 and 7: Brown fur collar - Orpiment found in one location only on the left side, in crystalline form: elsewhere yellows seem rounded almost like lead based yellow. Reds, white, black, and occasional azurite mixed in brown.
Sample 8: Red collar - Good quality vermilion with red lake. Some lead soaps protruding from ridges in the paint.
Lettering with charcoal black and white.
Purple edge with red, black and white.
The brighter green of the background brocade seems to be produced with simple glaze over grey priming. The dull green modelling of the pattern is applied with variable thickness for texture, made with lead-tin yellow and charcoal black.
Sample 1: Bright green glaze from upper-right background edge: Shows chalk, grey priming with an overlaid copper green glaze.
Sample 2: From the background next to Sample 1: Dull green modelling layer over the grey priming - lead-tin yellow, lead white and charcoal black, all with large particles.
Sample 3: Dark green shadow at the right edge: Remains of brown overpaint.
Sample 4, next to sample 3: Glaze very dark and some scattered, large, dark red lake particles may contribute to this.
Sample 10: The green glaze appears to have been executed all at the same time.
The table has lead-tin yellow undermodelling with traces of very worn green glaze over it.
Sample 5: Gold to the left of centre of the cross: Dark reddish underlayer can be seen between high ridges of gilded paint. It is difficult to see whether this is mordant gilding or shell gold, but mordant is most likely. Two reds modify the gold: crimson lake and a duller red. This may be retouching but appears to be the same as the bulky dull red seen on other paintings of the period.
Gilding on the cushion is similar to that on the mitre, the same dull red with vermilion highlights.
Sample 9: Scattering of large azurite particles throughout the red paint of the patterning. Green in carpet is azurite with no other pigment but seems to be laid over a red layer.
Analysis undertaken in 2001
Paint sampling by Catherine Hassall was done during conservation treatment to ascertain whether certain layers could be removed because they were not original. Analysis of the eight samples (three from the sleeve on the left, four from the sleeve on the right, one from the upper-left green background) showed that:
- discolouration in the background at the time of treatment was due to a later organic layer.
- the original grey of the shadow in the sleeve is a mixture of lead white and particles of coarsely ground charcoal black. Highlights over some of these shadows are thin white layers applied over the grey.
- the background layer structure is a copper green glaze over a layer made of a mixture of white, lead-tin yellow and charcoal black.
Analysis undertaken in 1961
The painting was examined and four samples were analysed by Joyce Plesters (National Gallery) in 1961. Her analysis concluded that:
- the ground is chalk. The blue in the carpet pattern is azurite, underpainted with a mixture of lead white and coarse carbon black
- the dark blue from the central jewel of the mitre is a mixture of azurite and carbon black
- the green brocade curtain is a copper green glaze and verdigris mixture, with lead white or yellow lead mixed into it in the lighter/more opaque areas
An examination of the construction of paint layers, glazes and condition often using a microscope. This method provides important evidence concerning an artist’s technique and paint handling and can reveal a specific artist’s characteristic painting style.
Painting style and method
This painting is quite thickly and deliberately painted, and is built up very systematically. The surface is almost entirely covered with paint - no priming or ground is left showing through. There are some delicate fine brushstrokes, for example in the eyelashes, hair and fur. Modelling is created with adjacent or overlapping strokes of different shades, rather than by wet-in-wet blending. Parts of this painting have a complex layer structure and widespread use has been made of glazes. The red of the mitre lining was built up with a dark translucent glaze, much of which has flaked off, leaving a lighter opaque red visible. Glazes have also flaked off in places in the brown fur. The 2000 assessment also observed that the craquelure is not typical of a panel painting.
This painting has a chalk ground. There is a pale grey priming layer (lead white and plant black), which is not always easy to detect but can be seen clearly underneath the red carpet paint (see Paint sampling). The series of slight ridges underneath the green background glaze may be due to application of the priming, perhaps with a hog's hair brush.
Infrared reflectography revealed an extremely detailed underdrawing, with all elements of the composition firmly outlined (see Infrared reflectography). This drawing can be seen through the paint surface in many places, particularly in the face, and in the thinner glazes of the fur cuffs (see micro 03 and micro 20).
On the open pages of the book (lower right) the positions of the letters were incised into the white paint when still wet (see micro 12), before the black paint for the letters was applied.
Paint layer structure
Flesh paint, eyes, hair and lips
There is a mixture of pigments present in the whites of the eyes (see micro 01), including two different reds, black and yellow, but there is none of the blue noted in many of the other portraits. There is also no blue pigment in the flesh paint, which contains a great deal of red. Two types of red pigment were observed: one red/orange, and the other a deeper red, vermilion and red lake. The lips are painted in shades of red/pink, with pure red lake for the line between them (micro 03).
Head and face
The face was painted before the clothing and background. The hair seems to have been painted first as a plain area of grey, then the hat was painted, and then the fine white lines of individual hairs were added last, overlapping the edge of the hat (see micro 04). As with other paintings in this 'after Holbein' group, there are a lot of black particles on the surface. These seem to be in a varnish or other layer, because particles are visible in the cracks in the paint in the hair and face etc (see micro 04). It is not known why these remain.
The hands are painted with the same mixture as the face - vermilion, red lake, lead white and charcoal black - but there is a much smaller proportion of red. The hands are painted in much the same way as the face, with lots of thick brushstrokes and modelling created by adjacent or overlapping areas of different shades (see micro 16).
Fur collar/stole and cuffs
The collar was painted after the background and the white surplice. Where it overlaps the white, fine brushstrokes depicting individual hairs are dragged over the white, but not blended in. A glaze layer in the fur has partially flaked away (see micro 14). The fur collar contains some orpiment, also some lead-based yellow, as well some reds, white, black, and occasionally (it seems) some azurite. The hairs of the fur which overlap from the cuffs onto the white are painted with fine, delicate brushstrokes. Where the layers of paint in the cuffs are thinnest the underdrawn zig-zag lines indicating the fur can be seen beneath the surface (see micro 20).
The red is good quality vermilion with red lake. Some lead soaps (probably from the ground) protrude from the ridges of paint in the vermilion.
The shadows are modelled using mixtures of white, black and yellow. The 2001 sampling and examination observed that the shading is built up from dark to light. The highlights are therefore the thickest areas of paint.
Surprisingly, in the x-ray image of this painting, the dark sections of the background appear light, and the light areas dark. This appears to be because the darker pattern was applied initially as a thick light-coloured paint (containing a large amount of lead-tin pigment) in order to create the pattern in slight relief. This was then glazed with a darker green than the areas in between (see micro 11). These other areas have only a green glaze over the priming/ground.
The order of painting is not entirely clear but microscopy and paint sample analysis indicate the following:
-The brighter green areas of paint in the brocade seem to have been produced with a simple green glaze over the pale grey priming layer.
-The thicker areas with the raised pattern are made with a modelling layer or an underlayer of variable thickness. The paint mixture contains lead-tin yellow, lead white and charcoal black, all in large particles, and would probably have been a pale dullish green over the priming layer. The variations in texture and tone are created by variations in the thickness of this layer.
-The green glaze appears to have been applied over all at the same time.
There are the remains of brown overpaint on the darker green shadow (see sample 3) and it is difficult to tell whether there was some form of dark undermodelling beneath the glaze. The glaze is a very dark green compared with the brighter green areas. It is not clear how this was achieved. There are large scattered red lake particles in the dark green. It is probable that the pronounced near-parallel lines of brushstrokes, in various directions, visible in the lighter green areas, could be in the priming, and that the paler green is a smooth glaze over this. These lines continue on either side of elements of the raised pattern, although in some places they seem to run through/across them.
The cartellino was always intended as part of the composition: it is not painted over the background - a reserve seems to have been left for it (see micro 10). The red 'seals' were added as a finishing touch. Guidelines can be seen for parts of the inscription on the cartellino and the letters were incised into the white paint when it was still wet (see micro 12). These were presumably to be followed with the black paint, but they do not match exactly.
An overall brown layer was applied to the crucifix shape, then the areas that are gilded were first painted with slightly raised, thick strokes (see detail 07). Gold leaf was then placed over these, presumably onto a layer of oil (see micro 06). Over this gilding and paint, a glaze containing red lake and a duller red was applied to shade and model in places. This glaze appears to be original as it has the same cracks as the paint elsewhere in the crucifix (see micro 07). The top and bottom jewels are painted with red lake. The left-hand jewel appears to be just black, but the paint in the centre of the right-hand jewel (which might be original, or may be old restoration) is a grey mixture containing some bright red particles and some blue particles which might be azurite. This part of the crucifix has much restoration of damage along the panel join (see micro 06).
The gold on the mitre is carried out with the same technique as is used for the crucifix (see above). The grey of the pearls (and their white highlights), and the grey central section contain azurite (see micro 09), scattered in the upper layer. Some of the thick layers of red lake of the inner sections of the mitre have flaked away. This has revealed more opaque modelling, which was glazed over to create a rich effect (see micro 08). The central triangle of the mitre has little raised areas of white impasto applied in little horizontal lines with charcoal and azurite shadow over a light brownish layer. Many of the darker passages in the mitre and in various parts of the picture exhibit drying cracks.
Tablecloth (left-hand side of painting)
This appears to have been painted as a solid area of red, and then the different colours of the pattern were applied in dabs of paint over this (see micro 15). Overall, it is painted without pronounced texture. The opaque reds in this area and elsewhere appear to be a mixture of an orange red (vermilion) and red lake.
The gilded lines on the cushion are created in the same way as the gilding in the crucifix and mitre. They are painted lines onto which the gold has been applied to give a raised texture which is very obvious in raking light (see micro 17). Some of the gold is now worn away.
The pale green at the lower edge of the painting has traces of a much brighter green over it. The band of green just above this, just below the cushion, appears to be a thick layer of translucent green, which is now blanched and abraded in places, and has had some overpainting. Paint sample analysis shows that the green glaze layer has been scrubbed off (most likely during a past cleaning campaign), exposing the light green underlayer.
The pink around the edge of the book is made up of red lake, white and black and has other particles (including a more orange red) in the shadows (see detail 03). Guide drawing for some of the writing can be seen over the white paint of the pages, where the lettering has not followed it exactly. Drawn lines indicate the angle of the column of red letters and appear to mark the position of some of these letters (micro 18). The drawing medium appears sparkly grey - possibly graphite or metalpoint.
Carpet (right-hand side of painting)
This is painted in the same way as the tablecloth, but in some of the blue sections the azurite appears to exhibit some deterioration of the medium, or some residues left over the paint (see micro 19). There is a scattering of azurite throughout the red paint of the pattern (see Paint sampling). The green in the carpet is azurite, which has been laid or scattered over an underlying red.
Order of construction
- Chalk ground
- Grey priming
- Black underdrawing
- First layers for mitre, cross and cushion, with mordant for gilding
- The face was painted before the clothing and the background.
- Black hat
- Brown first layer for fur collar and cuffs
- The order of painting the background is not entirely clear but microscopy and paint sampling indicate that the brighter green parts of the brocade were painted first with a green glaze over the grey priming, then the thicker areas with raised pattern were made with a modelling layer of mixed light green, and a green glaze then applied over the whole background.
- Most of the fur collar was painted after the background and the white surplice
- Grey first layer for the hair, followed by fine white lines for individual hairs painted overlapping the edges of the hat
- Fine detail on the mitre and cross, and shadows round fingers
- Final red glazes were applied to the mitre
- Carpet detail was probably painted late in the painting process
Lead white, red lead, charcoal black, plant black, azurite, red lake, lead-tin yellow, vermilion, copper green glaze, verdigris, earth pigments, some orpiment
A method which helps to reveal past restoration and the extent of varnish layers.
Retouchings down both the panel joins appear as dark bands in ultra violet light. There are some isolated spots of retouching in the face and the rest of the figure, but very few. There is quite a lot of retouching around the edges. The crucifix has a cloudy, hazy appearance, with varying fluorescence, and the top jewel and surrounding area appear white under ultra violet light. There is much retouching in this area too. There is cloudy fluorescence in the fur and the lining of the mitre. This could be due to the varnish residues, coatings, or to the medium used for the glazes. The background appears dark, apart from a few lighter strokes, and little detail can be seen. The most recent varnish is still clear in ultra violet light and has very little fluorescence.