Portrait of a Nobleman, c. 1540
Hans (the Younger) Holbein, Circle of
oil on paper mounted on wood, transferred to canvas
62.7 x 48.3 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 3564)
The man strikes a fashionable and assertive pose, considered appropriate for men of action: arms akimbo, one hand grasping the hilt of his sword. The unknown artist, active in southern Germany or Switzerland, looked to the work of Holbein for a model, adopting his concentrated attention and subtlety of description. The composition is simple, but sophisticated: the relationship of figure to frame was calculated to focus attention and create a sense of shallow depth. The subject effects not to return our gaze; the slight torque in his body creates a sense of stilled energy - a momentary rest. The hip-length format comes from contemporary Italian painting.
Frame: ebonized veneer with bone and horn inlay over wooden carcass. Germany, first half 17th century