Portrait of an English Lady

This likeness conveys the poise of a woman of distinction, probably a member of the English court. The sitter’s serene features are balanced by the emphatic yet decorous gesture of her clasped hands. Holbein’s sumptuous palette and use of gold—on her fashionable French hood, the gleaming jeweled medallion affixed to her gown, and even the tiny pin fastening her black sleeve— date this portrait to the last years of his career but provide no clues to the sitter’s identity. The medallion, which shows two figures standing on either side of a fire, might represent an Old Testament scene.

Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543)
Portrait of an English Lady, ca. 1540–43
Oil on panel
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Gemäldegalerie; 847