A Court Official and his Wife

This pair of intimate roundels might originally have had protective lids (like Holbein’s painting of Philip Melanchthon, also on view), or the panels could have been brought together to form a portable capsule. Compact and more affordable than larger-scale likenesses, the portraits are no less refined and detailed than Holbein’s grander works. The man is dressed in royal livery: a red coat decorated with the elaborately embroidered initials H and R, for Henricus Rex, referring to King Henry VIII. The uniform indicates that the subject served the court in an official capacity. The woman’s relatively demure costume allowed Holbein to explore a variety of textures, such as the thick felt or wool bonnet and the fur trimming of her dress.

Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543)
A Court Official of Henry VIII
The Wife of a Court Official of Henry VIII
Oil on panels
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Gemäldegalerie; 5432 and 6272