Hans Holbein the Younger, Portrait of an English Woman, a drawing

England, mid-1530s

The drawing was probably made during Holbein's second stay in England, probably in the mid-1530s. It used to be thought that the sitter was Margaret Roper, favourite daughter of Sir Thomas More (1478-1535), but the resemblance to Holbein's miniature painting of her (1536, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) is not strong.

It is likely that she was a lady at the English court of Henry VIII. She is drawn in red and black chalk with touches of bodycolour to highlight her features. Holbein used the point of a brush with black ink to reinforce the edge of her cap and facial features. Her eyebrows and eyelashes are particularly delicate. The original paper was prepared with a soft pink ground, which suggests her flesh tones. However, at some stage the drawing was cut out from its original paper and laid down on another sheet so that the figure is now silhouetted.

The drawing was originally in a large volume of portrait drawings, most of which are now in the Royal Collection, Windsor Castle. This 'Great Booke' once belonged to Thomas Howard, earl of Arundel, who was a great patron and collector of art.

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Hans Holbein the Younger, Portrait of an English Woman, a drawing

Mary Roper by Hans Holbein


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)

J. Rowlands, Master drawings and watercolou (London, The British Museum Press, 1984)

S. Foister, A. Roy and M. Wyld, Making and meaning: Holbeins a (National Gallery, London, 1997-8)


Height: 276.000 mm
Width: 191.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1910-2-12-105


Bequeathed by George Salting


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