Designs for Medallions

Holbein’s ingenious designs for emblems and heraldry attest to his skill and to the popularity of such articles in Tudor England. Two drawings at top, likely intended as plans for precious objects, show a hand emerging from the clouds and resting on a closed book. Both feature the same motto in Italian: “I desire to observe that which I have sworn.” The circular format and Italian inscriptions connect these miniature compositions with Holbein’s painted An Allegory of Passion, thus revealing the artist’s ability to convey related ideas in a variety of scales and mediums. Designs for Holbein’s own heraldic arms, featuring a bull’s head, are included at the center of the mount.

Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543)
Designs for Medallions, ca. 1532–43
Pen and black ink and wash; silhouetted
The British Museum, London, bequeathed by Sir Hans Sloane in 1753; SL,5308.22, SL,5308.44, SL,5308.34, SL,5308.154, SL,5308.42, SL,5308.164, SL,5308.28, SL,5308.40, SL,5308.15, SL,5308.19, SL,5308.13