Identity of Hans Holbein’s Sitter Revealed

A detail from Hans Holbein the Younger’s portrait of Hans of Antwerp. (Courtesy Royal Collection Trust)

One of Hans Holbein the Younger’s portraits, of a young man in a fur-lined gown, which has been in possession of the British royal family since 1639, was originally believed to be the goldsmith, and friend of Holbein, Hans of Antwerp. But after some removal of varnish and overpaint, The Guardian reports, conservators now say it is actually a wealthy steel merchant, who may also have been named Hans.

From the story:

The discovery came when the royal conservators spotted that the sitter’s seal, in the foreground, had been altered to appear as a “W”. In fact it was originally a merchant’s mark – a circle and crossed lines. The same mark can be seen in reverse on the letter held in the man’s hand. The inscription under the knife remains unclear, but the experts consulted by the Royal Collection agree the letters “hofe” appear on the third line. This suggested the word “Stallhof”, meaning steelyard.

The careful cleaning work has also exposed the gem-set rings worn by Hans, which also indicates the superior wealth of a leading merchant.

Along with 26 other works by Holbein, the portrait will go on display in an exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace, “The Northern Renaissance: Dürer to Holbein,” which opens next month.

Identity of Hans Holbein’s Sitter Revealed