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Portrait of Hans Holbein

   
 
 


David Deuchar
Etching from
Le Triomphe de la Mort
Gravé l'apres les Dessins originaux de Jean Holbein

1786
2 1/8"w x 3"h

               
               
 

PREFACE from "The DANCES OF DEATH through The Various Stages of Human Life
Wherein the Capriciousness of That Tyrant is Exhibited in Forty-Six Copper Plates
done from the Original Designs which were Cut in Wood and Afterwards Painted
by John Holbein in the Town of Basil." Published in London, 1803.

   
 

J

OHN or HANS HOLBEIN was born in Basil in 1498, and died at London of the plague in 1554, aged 56.


This admirable Painter was instructed in the art by his father JOHN HOLBEIN. In the early part of his life, he pursued his studies with incessant assiduity; and being possessed of an elevated genius, his progress was exceedingly rapid; so that he soon became far superior to his instructor. He painted equally well in oil, water colours,' and in fresco; and although he had never practised the art of painting in miniature till he resided in England, yet he afterwards carried it to its highest perfection.

The invention of Holbein was suprisingly fruitful, and often poetical; his execution was remarkably quick, and his application indefatigable. His pencil was exceedingly delicate; his coloring had a wonderful degree of force; he finished his pictures with exquisite neatness; and his carnations were life itself.

He excelled all his cotemporaries in portrait, and his genuine works are always distinguishable by thetrue, round, lively imitation of flesh visible in them, and also by the amazing delicacy of his finishing.

The genius and excellence of this master were sufficiently shewn in the historical style, by two celebrated compositions which he painted in the Hall of the Steel-yard Company; of which the subjects were the Triumph of Riches, and the condition of Poverty: these two are universally admired for the richness of the colouring, as also for the strong character of tho figures through the whole. Frederick Zucchero, on seeing these pictures, expressed the highest esteem for Holbein, and even copied them in Indian ink.

In the town of Basil he painted a picture of our Saviour's Sufferings, as well as a Dance of Peasants.

Abbé du Bus observes, that the altar-piece at Basil, painted by Holbein, may be compared with the best productions of Raphael's disciples for composition, and preferred to them with respect to colouring; that he shews a greater degree of knowledge of the chiaro-scuro, and particular incidents of light that are truly marvellous. But that which contributed most to raise and establish the reputation of this celebrated Painter was Death's Dance, designed and painted by him in the town-house of Basil; a work truly admirable, and which alone was sufficient to render the name of Holbein immortal.

Sandrart relates, that he heard Rubens acknowledge, that he had learned a great deal from the pictures of Death's Dance; and he recommended them strongly to the study of many of his own profession.

The learned Erasmus was so much struck by the wonderful display of genius exhibited in this great work, that he conceived a strong friendship for Holbein; sat to him for his picture; and recommended him to Sir Thomas Moore, the then Lord Chancellor of England: and to this incident our country is indebted for the many excellent performances which it afterwards received from the pencil of Holbein.

The designs for Death's Dance were cut in wood by Holbein, and published with the original texts from which they were taken; from that work the following plates were done. They contain the whole of Death's Dance, with borders and decorations; to which are added, a description of each plate ... and a portrait of Holbein.

 
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