The ambassadors | Hans Holbein the Younger | 1533

The ambassadors | Hans Holbein the Younger | 1533

The ambassadors | Hans Holbein the Younger | 1533

Holbein’s career began in Switzerland, where he became known for portraying Erasmus of Rotterdam, author of In Praise of Folly.

In the circle of the humanist Erasmus was also Thomas Moore, author of Utopia and chancellor of Henry VIII of England. Erasmus recommended Holbein to Thomas More to fill the position of King’s Painter. Holbein, before turning 30, was received in England by the court of Henry VIII. In the series The Tudors we can see the whole story.

The artist usually portrayed the king’s court, the king’s lovers, landowners and several officials. The best known portraits painted by Holbein are undoubtedly those of Henry VIII. However, the painting The Ambassadors became famous for the composition and the motif it shows. While the portraits are closed in themselves, you can always find new interpretations in The ambassadors.

The characters found in the work are presumably Jean Dinteville, a French ambassador, and Georges de Selve, a bishop, who also served as Ambassador of the Republic of Venice and the Holy See. Although there is debate about the identity of the characters, the National Gallery in London seems to have no doubts.

As you can see, Holbein fused portrait and still life in The Ambassadors. To interpret it, is necessary to understand the artist’s obsession with symbols. Both the two ambassadors and the objects can be interpreted symbolically.

If we look carefully, the costumes of the ambassadors are radically different. While the French ambassador on the left uses couture, mundane clothing; the bishop wears a religious garb.

Anamorphic skull

Anamorphic skull

The objects included are clearly differentiated from each other. On the shelf, in the upper level, we see elements that refer to heaven: a celestial globe (to study the stars), a quadrant, a Torquetum (an astronomical calculator) and more. On the lowest level, objects that refer to earth: a globe, books and musical instruments. In the foreground, we see a strange diagonal, which is one of the most interesting features of the painting: a skull painted by anamorphosis, a technique where you draw a figure that can’t be identified when viewed from the front. It is only visible when it’s looked from another perspective. The ambassadors was supposed to be hung on the landing of a staircase, so the skull could be seen as you lower the stairs. Symbolically, the skull universally represents death.

With these indicators, Holbein shows us the spiritual world at different levels of the painting: heaven, earth and hell. Men, between them, are among the eternal conflict of belief in a higher power or not.

More information on the symbols, here.

~ by Álvaro Mazzino on May 18, 2012.

27 Responses to “The ambassadors | Hans Holbein the Younger | 1533”

  1. Very interesting, Thanks

  2. Excellent. My interest in Holbein and the court of Henry VIII stems from Anglican religious and my English and Norman ancestry. Further, I taught courses in the humanities for several years in a community college. I love art and the discussion of art at every level and time in history. Thanks for your blog.

  3. I’m always asked about good and bad food, but even a spoon of butter can be right for your diet if you’re
    deficient in those nutrients. There may be a few healthy options on the menus of the large chains,
    but no one’s going to buy a salad when a burger costs less and is more filling. box of pasta and feed 6 people from it at a cost of about $0.

  4. Hello! I’m at work surfing around your blog from my new iphone 4!

    Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to all your posts!
    Keep up the outstanding work!

  5. Pretty great post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I’ve truly enjoyed surfing around your
    blog posts. After all I will be subscribing in your rss
    feed and I am hoping you write again soon!

  6. I like the helpful information you provide in your articles.
    I will bookmark your weblog and test once more right here regularly.
    I’m moderately certain I’ll be informed many new stuff right right here!

    Best of luck for the next!

  7. In conditioned water, tthe cacium ions remain suspended in the
    water as small particles, but their propensity tto form limescale is
    reduced. A garden hose can also be used to check for proper flow.
    The idea iss too prevent the water dripping down the roof from accumulating in the house.

  8. Either HUMBLY ACKNOWLEDGE your REPENTANCE, thhe way Job’s “friends” were Divinely Amonished to do, to Job’s face, and OFFER RESTITUTION, in the form oof HONORING my
    FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHT to hav my THOUSANDS of pages of material mae more abundantly
    available, to those who just might therefore begin to appreciate
    whhat so maany of you are gleefully depriving them, iif only through your “morally neutral” INACTION,
    of aan opportunity tto intelligently and indepeendently study (Matthew 23:
    15), in WHAT VERY LITTLE TIME REMAINS (John 9:4); or else,
    to the contrary, COME RIGHT OUT annd TELL ME TO GO TO HELL
    (Isaah 5:18-25; 66:5), if indeed you have the DEMONICALLY AS WELL AS ULTIMATELY SELF-DEFEATING

    You desire a warranty that is going too continue for about
    three or mode yrs. Do not use a highly acidic defergent as it can cause damage to the pipelines
    of the basin.

  9. Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is an extremely well
    written article. I will be sure to bookmark it and
    come back to read more of your useful information. Thanks
    for the post. I’ll certainly comeback.

  10. Having read this I believed it was extremely informative.
    I appreciate you finding the time and energy to put this information together.
    I once again find myself personally spending a significant amount of time both reading and leaving comments.
    But so what, it was still worth it!

  11. If you would like to grow your experience just keep visiting this site and be updated with
    the latest gossip posted here.

  12. Hi my friend! I want to say that this post
    is awesome, nice written and come with approximately all significant infos.
    I would like to peer extra posts like this .

  13. I have read so many articles about the blogger lovers however this piece of writing is truly a good piece of
    writing, keep it up.

  14. Very quickly this web site will be famous among all blog people,
    due to it’s good posts

  15. I know this web page presents quality based articles and other material, is there any other web page which provides these kinds of information in quality?

  16. Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Many thanks, However I am
    experiencing difficulties with your RSS. I don’t understand the reason why I am unable to subscribe to it.
    Is there anyone else having the same RSS problems?
    Anyone that knows the answer will you kindly respond? Thanks!!

  17. If you want to increase your familiarity only keep visiting this web page and be updated with the latest gossip posted here.

  18. Howdy, I think your web site may be having internet browser compatibility problems.
    Whenever I take a look at your website in Safari,
    it looks fine however, when opening in IE, it’s got some
    overlapping issues. I just wanted to provide you with a quick heads up!
    Other than that, great website!

  19. I was pretty pleased to find this website. I want to to
    thank you for ones time due to this fantastic read!!
    I definitely liked every little bit of it and I have you saved to fav to check
    out new things on your website.

  20. hello there and thank you for your info –
    I’ve definitely picked up anything new from right here.
    I did however expertise several technical points using this
    web site, as I experienced to reload the website a lot of times previous to
    I could get it to load properly. I had been wondering
    if your web hosting is OK? Not that I’m complaining, but slow
    loading instances times will sometimes affect your placement
    in google and can damage your high quality score if advertising
    and marketing with Adwords. Well I am adding this RSS to my
    email and can look out for a lot more of your respective interesting content.
    Make sure you update this again soon.

  21. Good site you have here.. It’s difficult to find good quality writing like yours these days.
    I really appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!

  22. You could certainly see your enthusiasm within the work you write.
    The sector hopes for even more passionate writers such
    as you who aren’t afraid to mention how they believe.
    At all times go after your heart.

  23. Wow, amazing weblog format! How lengthy have you ever been blogging
    for? you made running a blog look easy. The total look of your
    website is fantastic, as smartly as the content material!

  24. Undeniably consider that which you said. Your favourite reason appeared to be at the internet the easiest factor to take into
    accout of. I say to you, I definitely get irked at the same time
    as people think about worries that they just do not realize about.

    You controlled to hit the nail upon the highest and also defined out the
    whole thing with no need side effect , people can take a signal.
    Will likely be again to get more. Thanks

  25. Wow, wonderful weblog format! How long have you ever been running a blog
    for? you make running a blog look easy. The total glance of
    your website is magnificent, as neatly as the content!

  26. I got this website from my friend who shared with me about this website and at the moment this time
    I am visiting this site and reading very informative articles at this time.

  27. […] 2. Holbein the ambassadors (1533) [painting] (accessed April 5 […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: