John Leland

Holbein’s commemorative portrait bust of Thomas Wyatt is accompanied by laudatory verses by John Leland, a royal antiquarian and Wyatt’s longtime friend. Wyatt appears in a roundel frame, with his characteristic full beard. He is bareheaded and wears a tunic in the manner of an ancient philosopher, in keeping with his own poetry and Leland’s verses. The lines above the portrait praise Holbein’s artistic mastery while acknowledging painting’s inability to represent a subject’s mind or spirit—a sentiment expressed in portraits of Erasmus that are also on view.

John Leland (1506?–1552)
Naeniae in mortem Thomae Viati equitis incomparabilis (Dirges on the death of the incomparable knight Thomas Wyatt)
Woodcut after a design by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543)
London: Reyner Wolfe, 1542
Text above woodcut, in Latin: On the image of Thomas Wyatt. Holbein, greatest in the shining art of painting, portrayed his image artistically, but no Apelles [i.e., painter] can portray the blessed genius and spirit of Wyatt.
The Morgan Library & Museum, gift of the Fellows, 1969; PML 59326.5