Erasmus of Rotterdam, Woodcut

Holbein designed this commemorative portrait of Erasmus following the latter’s death in 1536. Seen in full length and dressed in long robes, the scholar rests his hand on a sculpted herm of Terminus, which seems to cast a wily glance at the viewer. The lavishly decorated triumphal arch honors Erasmus, while the motifs of baskets and abundant garlands of fruit allude to his prolific scholarship. The text, added in movable metal type (not part of the woodcut itself ), commends the accuracy of the portrait: “If you have not seen Erasmus in life, then this image, executed from life, will show you how he looked.”

Veit Specklin (d. 1550), blockcutter, after a design by Hans Holbein the Younger
Erasmus of Rotterdam (“im Gehäus”), ca. 1538–40
Kunstmuseum Basel, Kupferstichkabinett; X.2128

Kunstmuseum Basel - Jonas Haenggi