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Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543), A Member of the Wedigh Family, 1533. Oil on panel. Inscribed on the background, in Latin: The year 1533 / At the age of 39, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Gemäldegalerie; 586B. Image: bpk Bildagentur / Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen, Berlin / Photo: Jörg P. Anders / Art Resource, NY.

NEW YORK, NY.- The Morgan Library & Museum is presenting Holbein: Capturing Character, running through May 15, 2022. Co-organized with the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, this marks the first major U.S. exhibition dedicated to the art of Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543). The Morgan’s display features around sixty objects from over twenty lenders across the globe, including thirty-one paintings and drawings by Holbein himself.

Hans Holbein the Younger was among the most skilled, versatile, and inventive European artists of the sixteenth century. He created captivating portraits of courtiers, merchants, scholars, and statesmen in Basel, Switzerland, and later in England, and served as a court painter to King Henry VIII (1491–1547). Enriched by inscriptions, insignia, and evocative attributes, his portraits not only conveyed truthful likenesses but also celebrated the individuals’ identities, values, aspirations, and achievements. 

Spanning the artist’s entire career, Holbein: Capturing Character begins with the artist’s early years in Basel, where he was active in the book trade and created iconic portraits of the great humanist scholar Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466–1536). Holbein stayed in England from 1526 to 1528 and moved there permanently in 1532, quickly becoming the most sought-after artist among nobles, courtiers, and the German merchants of the Hanseatic League. In addition to displaying superb examples of Holbein’s drawn and painted likenesses of his sitters, the exhibition also explores the artist’s activities as a designer of prints, book illustrations, personal devices (emblems accompanied by mottos), and jewels. The Morgan’s presentation also includes a section devoted to the development of Holbein and Hans Lützelburger’s (d. 1526) Images of Death (ca. 1526 and 1538)—the renowned series of forty woodcuts that is the masterwork of both artists in this medium. Works by Holbein’s famed contemporaries, such as Jan Gossaert (ca. 1478–1532) and Quentin Metsys (1466–1530), and a display of intricate period jewelry and book bindings offer further insights into the cultural interest in the representation of individual identity that developed in that period. Taken as a whole, the exhibition demonstrates the visual splendor of the art and culture of the time.

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Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543), Erasmus of Rotterdam, ca. 1532. Oil on panel, Kunstmuseum Basel, Amerbach-Kabinett 1662; 324

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Unknown maker, Signet Ring of Erasmus of Rotterdam (and modern impression), before 1509. Gold and carnelian (Roman gem, 1st century AD), Historisches Museum Basel; 1893.365 ©Historisches Museum Basel, Peter Portner

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Unknown maker, Seal of Erasmus of Rotterdam (and modern impression), ca. 1513–19. Silver, Historisches Museum Basel; 1893.364 ©Historisches Museum Basel, Peter Portner

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Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528), Erasmus of Rotterdam, 1526. Engraving. Inscribed on the wall panel behind Erasmus, in Latin and Greek: The likeness of Erasmus of Rotterdam, done from life by Albrecht Dürer. His writings present a better portrait / 1526 / AD, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, Rosenwald Collection; 1943.3.3554. Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington.

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Quentin Metsys (1465/66–1530), designer. Portrait Medal of Erasmus of Rotterdam (obverse), 1519, cast ca. 1524. Bronze. Inscribed around the perimeter, in Greek and Latin: His writings will give a better picture: His portrait taken from life. Historisches Museum Basel; 1916.288©Historisches Museum Basel, Peter Portner

Quentin Metsys (1465/66–1530), designer. Portrait medal of Erasmus of Rotterdam, with Terminus (reverse), 1519, cast ca. 1524. Bronze. Inscribed around the perimeter and center, in Greek and Latin: Look to your end, however long your life—death is the final boundary of things. Historisches Museum Basel; 1916.288 ©Historisches Museum Basel, Peter Portner.

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Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543), Terminus, Device of Erasmus, ca. 1532. Oil on panel. Inscribed on the background, in Latin: I yield to none Inscribed on the base of the herm, in Latin: Terminus. Cleveland Museum of Art, gift of Dr. and Mrs. Sherman E. Lee in memory of Milton S. Fox; 1971.166.

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Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543) (and workshop?), Erasmus of Rotterdam, ca 1532. Oil on panel, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Robert Lehman Collection; 1975.1.138. © The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Veit Specklin (d. 1550), blockcutter, after a design by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543), Erasmus of Rotterdam (“im Gehäus”), ca. 1538–40. Woodcut, Kunstmuseum Basel, Kupferstichkabinett; X.2128© Kunstmuseum Basel - Jonas Haenggi.

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Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543), Johann Froben, ca. 1528–32. Oil and tempera on panel, Private collection.

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Horapollo (5th century AD), Hieroglyphica. Woodcut by Hans Herman (act. 1516–23), after a design by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543), Basel: Johann Froben, 1518, Getty Research Institute, Special Collections, Los Angeles; 2864-782. © Getty Research Institute.

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Henry VIII, King of England (1491–1547), Assertio septem sacramentorum adversus Martin Lutherum (Assertion of the seven sacraments in opposition to Martin Luther). Woodcut after a design by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543) London: Richard Pynson, 12 July 1521, The Morgan Library & Museum, gift of J. P. Morgan, 1935; PML 32270

Holbein: Capturing Character includes some of Holbein’s best-known works. In A Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling (Anne Lovell?) (ca. 1526–28), painted during his first trip to London, an elegant woman, dressed in an ermine fur cap and a fine silk shawl, holds a squirrel on her lap. The identity of the sitter remained unknown until 2004, when the animals in this portrait were identified as references to the Lovell family. Anne Lovell (née Ashby; d. 1539) was an English noblewoman whose husband, Sir Francis Lovell, served King Henry VIII. Her pet red squirrel, restrained by a silver chain and nibbling a hazelnut, alludes to the squirrels on the Lovell family crest. The starling on the left is a visual pun on East Harling, the location of the Lovell estate in Norfolk, England.

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Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543), A Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling (Anne Lovell?), ca. 1526–28. Oil on panel, National Gallery, London, bought with contributions from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund and Mr. J. Paul Getty Jnr. (through the American Friends of the National Gallery, London), 1992; NG6540

Also included in the exhibition is Holbein’s Simon George (ca. 1535–40). In this vibrant painting, Simon George of Cornwall is portrayed in profile, in a manner modeled on antique coins and portrait medals. Nothing but the sitter’s name and place of origin is known today. Yet the complex system of symbols that Holbein developed in this work suggests that the young man might have been a poet conversant in the symbolic language of love. Recent conservation of the panel allows viewers to fully appreciate Holbein’s vivid colors and rich surface effects— from the carefully modulated description of George’s skin to the black embroidery of his glossy, puckered jacket. The portrait is being displayed alongside Holbein’s drawn preparatory study. Lent by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the sheet exemplifies the delicately layered drawing technique which the artist employed to capture the profile of Simon George of Cornwall, going as far as describing individual wispy hairs that form the sitter’s eyebrow and stubble. Holbein’s portrait study of William Parr, Marquess of Northampton (ca. 1538–42), is another fascinating drawing on view in the exhibition. William Parr (1513–1571) was the brother of Catherine Parr, the sixth and final wife of King Henry VIII. Renowned for his good looks and good taste, the sitter was depicted by Holbein wearing a fur-edged gown made of white and purple velvet and satin (as indicated by the artist’s inscriptions).

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Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543), Simon George, ca. 1530–40. Mixed technique on panel, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main; 1065Photo: Städel Museum.

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Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543), Simon George, ca. 1535. Black and colored chalks, pen and brush and black ink, and metalpoint on pink prepared paper. Lent by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II; RCIN 912208. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2022

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Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543), William Parr, Marquess of Northampton, 1538–42. Black and colored chalks, white opaque watercolor, pen and black ink, and brush and ink on pink prepared paper. Inscribed, in German: wis felbet (white velvet), burpor felbet (purple velvet), wis satin (white satin), w (for weiss [white]) five times, Gl (gold) twice, gros (size), and MORS (death). Lent by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II; RCIN 912231. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2022

Exclusive to the Morgan’s exhibition is Sir Thomas More (1527)—one of the masterpieces of Holbein’s first stay in England—depicting the philosopher, statesman and humanist at the height of his political career. More sat for Holbein shortly before he was promoted to Lord Chancellor, the highest-ranking office in Tudor England. Holbein presents his sitter as an authoritative statesman, prominently adorned with a golden chain of office. The S-shaped links might stand in for the motto “Souvent me souvient” (Think of me often), while a Tudor rose at the center is the traditional heraldic emblem of England and a symbol of More’s service to the king. The portrait exemplifies Holbein’s ability to render colors and textures—from More’s graying stubble to the opulent fur trim of his coat and the lush, voluminous red-velvet sleeves of his doublet. The painting—a loan from The Frick Collection, New York—is one of the masterpieces of that institution’s holdings.

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Hans Holbein The Younger, Sir Thomas More, ca. 1527. Oil on panel, 74.9 x 60.3 cm (29 1/2 x 23 3/4 in.) . The Frick Collection, New York, inv. 1912.1.77.. Photo: Michael Bodycomb.

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Sir Thomas More (1478–1535), Utopia. Woodcut title page border by Hans Hermann (active 1516–23), after a design by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543). Basel: Johann Froben, November and December 1518, The Morgan Library & Museum, purchased by J. Pierpont Morgan, 1912; PML 19444

The Morgan’s Director, Colin B. Bailey, said, “We are extraordinarily excited to bring a Hans Holbein the Younger exhibition of this magnitude to the Morgan in partnership with the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. This multi-disciplinary show, with its exceptional loans, is the first of its kind in the United States; it will give museum goers the opportunity to experience first-hand signal examples from the career of one of the most engaging artists of the European Renaissance.”

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Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543), Mary, Lady Guildford, 1527. Oil on panel, Saint Louis Art Museum, Museum Purchase; 1:1943

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Johann de Caulibus (b. ca. 1376), The Myrroure of the Blessyd Lyf of Jhesu Cryste. Translated by Nicholas Love (d. ca. 1423), Westminster: William Caxton, ca. 1489–90, The Morgan Library & Museum, purchased with the Bennett collection, 1902; PML 701

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Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543), Sir Nicholas Carew, 1527. Black and colored chalks, Kunstmuseum Basel, Kupferstichkabinett, Amerbach-Kabinett 1662; 1662.34

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Quentin Metsys (1465/66–1530), Portrait of a Scholar, ca. 1525–30. Mixed technique on panel, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main; 766. Photo: Städel Museum.

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Jan Gossaert (ca. 1478–ca. 1532), Francisco de los Cobos y Molina, ca. 1530–32. Oil on panel. Inscribed on hat badge, in Latin: Augusta Livia [wife of the Roman Emperor Augustus] V Carolus V [?], The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; 88.PB.43. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

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Christoph Weiditz the Elder (ca. 1500–1559), Portrait Medal of Francisco de los Cobos (obverse), 1531. Lead. Inscribed around the circumference, in Latin: To Francisco de los Cobos, great chancellor of the imperial army, privy councilor of Charles the fifth, in the year 1531, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, Samuel H. Kress Collection; 1957.14.1183.a. Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington

Christoph Weiditz the Elder (ca. 1500–1559), Portrait Medal of Francisco de los Cobos, with a Man Riding toward a Cliff, Carrying a Scroll (reverse), 1531. Lead. Inscribed on the scroll, in Latin: Fate will find a way, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, Samuel H. Kress Collection; 1957.14.1183.b. Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington

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Book of Hours, Paris, 1430–35. Illuminated by Bedford Master and workshop (act. 1415–35), The Morgan Library & Museum, purchased by J. Pierpont Morgan, 1909; MS M.359, fols. 123v–124r

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La danse macabre nouvelle (The new dance macabre), Paris: Guy Marchant, 7 June and 7 July 1486, The Morgan Library & Museum, purchased in 1975; PML 75062.

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Book of Hours, France, probably Tours, ca. 1530–35. Illuminated by the Master of the Getty Epistles (act. 1528–50), The Morgan Library & Museum, purchased by J. Pierpont Morgan, 1911; MS M.452, fols. 10v–11r.

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Historiarum veteris instrumenti icones ad vivum expressae (Icons of deeds of ancient history represented from life).Woodcuts by Hans Lützelburger (1495?–1526) and Veit Specklin (d. 1550), after designs by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543),Lyon: Melchior and Gaspar Trechsel for Jean and François Frellon, 1538,The Morgan Library & Museum, purchased with the De Forest collection, 1899; PML 2126.

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Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543), A Court Official of Henry VIII The Wife of a Court Official of Henry VIII, 1534. Oil on panels, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Gemäldegalerie; 5432 and 6272. Courtesy KHM-Museumsverband.

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Workshop of Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553), Martin Luther and Katharina von Bora, 1525. Oil on panels, The Morgan Library & Museum, purchased by J. Pierpont Morgan, 1909; AZ038.

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Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543), Portrait of a Woman, 1532–34. Oil and tempera on panel, Detroit Institute of Arts, bequest of Eleanor Clay Ford; 77.81.

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Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543), Derick Berck of Cologne, 1536. Oil on canvas, transferred from panel. Inscribed on lower right, in Latin: The year 1536 at the age of 30. Inscribed on the small piece of paper at left, in Latin: [Perchance even this distress] will someday be a joy to recall (Virgil, Aeneid, I.203), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Jules Bache Collection, 1949; 49.7.29.

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Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543), A Member of the Wedigh Family, 1533. Oil on panel. Inscribed on the background, in Latin: The year 1533 / At the age of 39, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Gemäldegalerie; 586B.

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Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543), Portrait of a Hanseatic Merchant, 1538. Oil on panel. Inscribed on the background, in Latin: The year of Our Lord 1538 / At the age of 33, Yale University Art Gallery, gift of Charles S. Payson, B.A. 1921; 1977.187.

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Jan Gossaert (ca. 1478–ca. 1532), Portrait of a Man (Jan Jacobsz. Snoeck?), ca. 1530. Oil on panel. Inscribed on the paper at left, in Dutch: Miscellaneous letters. Inscribed on the paper at right, in Dutch: Miscellaneous drafts. Inscribed on a ring on the index finger: IS. Inscribed on the hat badge: IAS (in ligature), National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund; 1967.4.1. © National Gallery of Art, Washington

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Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543), Portrait of a Scholar or Cleric, 1532–35. Black and red chalks, and pen and brush and black ink on pink prepared paper, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; 84.GG.93. © The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

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Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543), Nicholas Bourbon, 1535. Black and colored chalks, and pen and black ink on pink prepared paper. Lent by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II; RCIN 912192Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2022

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Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543), Philip Melanchthon, ca. 1535. Oil on panel, with lid. Inscribed inside the lid, in Latin: Behold Melanchthon’s features, almost as if alive: Holbein has captured them, with the utmost skill. Niedersächsisches Landesmuseum Hannover; PAM 798. © Niedersachsisches Landesmuseum, Hannover

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

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Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543), Tantalus, 1535–40. Pen and black ink and watercolor, heightened in gold. Inscribed on the scroll, at top: Tantalus. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, gift of Ladislaus and Beatrix von Hoffmann and Patrons’ Permanent Fund, 1998; 1998.18.1Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington.

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Unknown maker, French, Hercules Pendant, ca. 1540.Gold, enamel (white, blue, and black), and a baroque pearl, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; 85.SE.237.

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Unknown maker, French, Hat Badge Representing Prudence, 1550–60. Gold, enamel (white, blue, red, and black), chalcedony, and glass in the form of a table-cut diamond, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; 85.SE.238

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Unknown maker, French, Hat Badge with the Sacrifice of Isaac, ca. 1540–50. Gold, enamel, and jewels, The Al Thani Collection. © The Al Thani Collection 2022. All rights reserved. Photography by Guillaume Benoit.

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Unknown maker, French, Hat Badge with the Head of St. John the Baptist on a Platter, ca. 1500–1525. Gold, cast and enameled. Inscribed on the border, in Latin: Among those born of women, none has grown [greater than John the Baptist], Victoria and Albert Museum, London; 473-1873 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

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Unknown maker, English, Hat Badge with a Roman Warrior, Possibly an Emperor, ca. 1530–40. Gold, embossed and chased, Victoria and Albert Museum, London; 630-1884. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

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Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543), Richard Southwell, 1536. Oil on panel. Inscribed on background, in Latin: 10 July the year / H[enry] VIII 28 / At the age of 33, Gallerie degli Uffizi, Florence; 1890. Gabinetto Fotografico delle Gallerie degli Uffizi

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Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543), Designs for Medallions, ca. 1532–43. Pen and black ink and wash; silhouetted. The British Museum, London, bequeathed by Sir Hans Sloane in 1753; SL,5308.22, SL,5308.44, SL,5308.34, SL,5308.154, SL,5308.42, SL,5308.164, SL,5308.28, SL,5308.40, SL,5308.15, SL,5308.19, SL,5308.13

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 Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543), Portrait of a Woman, Possibly from the Cromwell Family, ca. 1535–40. Oil on panel. Inscribed on the background, in Latin: At the age of 21, Toledo Museum of Art, gift of Edward Drummond Libbey; 1926.57

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Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543), Designs for Metalwork, ca. 1532–43. Pen and black ink and wash; silhouetted, The British Museum, London, bequeathed by Sir Hans Sloane in 1753; SL,5308.139, SL,5308.138, SL,5308.165, SL,5308.140, SL,5308.141, SL,5308.118, SL,5308.121, SL,5308.143.

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Bound for Agnes Polus, Unknown binder. Calf leather, with gilt tooling on: Heures à l’usage de Romme (Hours for the use of Rome), Paris, ca. 1517. The Morgan Library & Museum, purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1907; PML 1063.

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Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543), Sir Thomas Wyatt, 1535–37. Black and colored chalks, and pen and black ink on pink prepared paper. Lent by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II; RCIN 912250. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2022

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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.

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Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543), Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, 1532–33. Black and colored chalks, and pen and black ink on pink prepared paper. Lent by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II; RCIN 912215Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2022

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Christoph Weiditz the Elder (ca. 1500–1559), Charles de Solier, Comte de Morette (obverse), 1530s. Boxwood. Inscribed around perimeter, in Latin: Charles de Solier, Lord of Morette at the age of 50, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Salting Bequest; A.507-1910. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

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Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543), An Allegory of Passion, ca. 1532–36. Oil on panel. Inscribed on the cartouche, lower center, in Italian: And so desire carries me along (Petrarch, Il canzoniere, CXXV), The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; 80.PB.72