Hans Holbein the Younger, A wild man brandishing an uprooted tree trunk, a drawing

Germany, around AD 1528

The style of this drawing, with its simplified outlines, is typical of a design for a glass painting. The figure is framed in pen and ink by elaborate classical architecture. The grey, brown and blue washes are used broadly to suggest the shadows. It was probably intended for a window in the meeting-place of the civic society Zur Hären ('Wild man' or literally, 'the hairy man'), which was based in the north part of the city of Basel. The society's emblem was of a wild, hairy man with an uprooted tree trunk. Originally the members were fishermen and hunters, but later it included some aristocrats and scholars. Holbein was working in Basel from 1515 and one of his patrons, Bonifacius Amerbach, was a member of this society.

Every January the wild man still appears in an annual festival dating from the Middle Ages. Men dress in costume and each performs a special dance. In his dance the wild man twirls around and with an uprooted tree pushes back the crowds. This is presumably the action which Holbein shows in this drawing.

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More information


J. Rowlands with G. Bartrum, The age of Dürer and Holbein: (London, The British Museum Press, 1988)

J. Rowlands and G. Bartrum, Drawings by German artists in, 2 vols. (London, The British Museum Press, 1993)

M. Royalton-Kisch, H. Chapman and S. Coppel, Old Master drawings from the M, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1996)


Height: 321.000 mm
Width: 215.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1895-9-15-992



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