a sketch by Holbein (with some retouching by another hand) from
the Windsor collection that was probably a preliminary drawing for the
great Whitehall mural of Henry VII, Henry VIII, Elizabeth of York and
Jane Seymour done by Holbein in 1537. This mural was destroyed by fire,
but a cartoon of the left half survives (which includes the Henries) as
well as a small copy of the complete painting done in 1667 by van
a panel painting by Holbein on the same scale as the preliminary
sketch, "the countours of which were traced and transferred to the
ground of the panel through an intermediate sheet covered with black
chalk. The metalpoint and pen lines in the face and headdress correspond
to the underdrawing on the panel that has been revealed using infrared
reflectography (IRR)." (p. 114) This painting is now housed in the
Kunsthistorisches and is referred to below as the "Vienna painting."
a good quality painting, probably also done from the sketch, but
by another painter in Holbein's studio. This version is housed in the
Mauritshuis, The Hague, and is referred to below as the "Mauritshuis
"It is striking that the drawing's rendering of the jewellery differs
from the painting in Vienna, but corresponds to the Mauritshuis
version. Exactly the same may be said of the folds of the sleeves."
Differences between the Vienna and Mauritshuis paintings:
Vienna: the jewels on the headdress and neckline are clusters
of 4 pearls interspersed between jewels set in a quatrefoil of gold.
Mauritshuis: large pearls separated by gold cylindical beads in
the necklace and small gold rounds at the neckline. This design more
closely corresponds to that in the sketch.
Vienna: the pendants are similar in design, though this pendant
has slightly smaller stones in a slightly larger gold setting. The
pendant hangs from the string or wire used to thread a cluster of
Mauritshuis: the pendant hangs directly from a pearl. This is
considered to be one sign that the painting is a copy rather than a
true Holbein. A pearl would not be able to support the weight, a
mistake that Holbein, as a jeweller, would not make.
Vienna: the pendant pinned to her gown; is "a large jewel
bearing the monogram of the name of Christ, IHS, an item from Henry
VIII's immensely rich jewellery collection." (p. 115)
Mauritshuis: the same pendant is depicted.
"It is not impossible that these jewels were based on his own designs,
since Holbein was very active as a designer of jewellery and other
precious items. . .many of his designs for delightful pendants and other
jewels have been preserved (none, it should be added, corresponds exactly
to any jewel that appears in his paintings." (p. 115)
Vienna: the girdle/belt follow the same pattern of pearl
clusters and jewels as the neckline and necklace. In this version you
can also see the elaborate chain of perals and jewels hanging from the
Mauritshuis: the girdle/belt is the same pattern as the
neckline/necklace. The portrait is not a full three-quarter length so
you cannot see the details of the chain hanging from the belt. It
appears to be something more than just pearls.
Vienna: the turned back sleeves: "one of the inventories of
Jane's property lists sleeves lined with gold thread: 'item oone peir
of sleevis of crymson satten embraudred with venice gold'." (p. 114)
Mauritshuis: the folds are slightly different and the detail of
the embroidery is not quite as clear, but the pattern is the same.
Vienna: the false undersleeve is quite different. In this
version the material is a silver brocade. "Holbein worked silver leaf
into the brocade of the sleeve and skirt." (p. 115) The panel is flat and
together on the underside by jewels similar to those in the necklace,
though their setting is slightly more elaborate.
Mauritshuis: the material is white and pleated in a manner
similar to that of other paintings (example: Lady Guildford). It
appears to be satin. It is not as large as the silver brocade
undersleeve depicted by Holbein. It is held together by double jewels
in a gold setting that is more elaborate than those of the Vienna
Vienna: the shift neckline is edged in black with
white-on-white embroidery. The material pulled through the false
undersleeve is very full and light (silk?) and the blackwork at the
cuff is a geometrical pattern about an inch and a half wide.
Mauritshuis: the neckline is similar to the Vienna painting.
The sleeve does not appear as full. The cuff embroidery is more floral
than geometric and is less than an inch wide. It continue up the sleeve
and can be seen pulled through the false undersleeve.
Vienna: the sleevehead shows no fold or seam
Mauritshuis: the sleevehead shows a fold or seam that is
slightly off the shoulder/armscye line and that curves as it goes over
the shoulder. This corresponds with the shoulder construction shown in
Gown Front Closure
Vienna: gown front closure appears to be secured by gold-headed
Mauritshuis: same design, though the pin heads appear slightly
Vienna: the headdress design is similar in both. The geometric
fabric design of the lappet is quite clear. The treatment of the jewels
follows the pattern of that in the necklace.
Mauritshuis: the geometric fabric of the lappet is not rendered
as clearly, though the pattern is similar. The jewels are more like the
sketch. There are clusters of pearls surrounding a gold round.
Quoted material from:
Buck, Stephanie and Jochen Sander. Hans Holbein the Younger:
Painter at the Court of Henry VIII. London: Thames and Hudson, 2003. Return to: Tudor
Dress: A Portfolio of Images