- Museum number
Head of a man turned to left; head and shoulders, looking to left, shoulder-length curly hair
Silverpoint on white prepared paper
Verso: study for a statuette of St Sebastian; whole-length figure of the saint facing front, partially draped, tied to a tree and pierced by arrows, mounted on a circular base
Silverpoint on white prepared paper
- Production date
- 1497-1500 (circa)
Height: 131 millimetres
Width: 96 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Edited from J.Rowlands 'Drawings by German Artists and Artists from German-speaking regions of Europe in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum: the Fifteenth Century, and the Sixteenth Century by Artists born before 1530', London, BM Press, 1993, no. 300:
On the verso of this sheet is a design for a statuette of St Sebastian of 1497, formerly in the Wernher Collection at Luton Hoo, and now in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum (inv.no M.27-2001; see http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O62629/reliquary-reliquary-of-st-sebastian ). It was made by a goldsmith from Augsburg for the Abbot Georg Kastner (d. 1509) of the Cistercian monastery at Kaisheim, for which Holbein was later to paint the high altarpiece (dated 1502; now Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv. no. 721/736). The pose of the saint is closely followed by the goldsmith in the statuette, although there are some differences in the tree to which the figure is tied, especially in the branch to which his right arm is bound. The detail of the figure, and the oblique angle at which the statuette is viewed conveys the impression of it being a copy of the statuette; but alterations to the branches and the simple oval sockel, which in the finished work is an elaborate square casket containing a relic, make it more likely, as Krause has plausibly argued, that Holbein has recorded a wooden model made in the goldsmith’s workshop before the statuette was cast. The ornamental reliquary sockel of the statuette, not seen in the drawing, is characteristic of the high-class work of the period. The general design for the sockel which was provided separately could have been done by Holbein, but probably was supplied from the goldsmith's workshop; however the details of its decoration, the statuettes and the relief of the 'Virgin of Pity' were made most probably after Holbein's designs. In the latter we find an anticipation of the 'Virgin of Pity' in the glass-painting of 1502 in a window in the mortuary chapel in the cathedral at Eichstätt, for which Holbein executed the design. Krause has made the convincing suggestion (2002) that the overhead view of the statuette and the simple oval base implies that the drawing was more likely made after a wooden model of the figure done in the goldsmith's workshop before it was cast in silver-gilt with the more elaborate sockel added later.
The drawing on the recto of this sheet is an early portrait drawing made by Holbein at some time between 1495 and 1500. Other comparable portrait drawings from this period are to be found in Bamberg (Staatliche Bibliothek, Graph. 1A6, 1A7, 1A10), and Vienna (Albertina, inv. no. 7825. D.205), and elsewhere (see Lieb-Stange, nos. 150-9, pls. 227-36). The St Sebastian on the verso is not mentioned in Lieb-Stange and has by some in the past been mistakenly considered a workshop production (see Manchester, 'German Art', loc. cit.), despite its fine quality and the fact that it clearly is in the same hand as the drawing on the recto, which is unquestionably by Holbein the Elder. In Basel there is a study for a statuette of St Sebastian tied to a tree, drawn in pen and ink with wash, by a member of Holbein's workshop, which may possibly record an alternative design for the Luton Hoo statuette (Basel, Kupferstichkabinett, U VII.9; Falk, 'Basel', p. 91, no. 207, pl. 57). Other workshop drawings which show links between Holbein and the goldsmith trade include the design for a bishop's crosier in Vienna (Österreichisches Museum für angewandte Künste, inv. no. K.1.619). Holbein is known to have collaborated with the goldsmith Jörg Seld (c. 1448-1527), in Augsburg (see under 1933,0211.2; Augsburg, 'Holbein', pp. 49, 106, under no. 77; p. 118, no. 108, repr.), of whom he made a portrait drawing in 1497 (Bayonne, Musée Bonnat, inv. no. 1532).'
Lit. from Rowlands 1993: 'Vasari Society, 1905/6, nos. 15, 16, repr.; Glaser, p. 205, no. 196; Lieb-Stange, p. 90, no. 154, pl. 232 (recto); Augsburg, Holbein, p. 108, no. 81, pl. 84 (recto), pp. 47, 101, no. 64, p. 204, under no. 276, pl. 105 (verso); Manchester, German Art, p. 30, no. 68; P. Strieder, Kunstchronik, v, 1965, Heft 11, p. 297, pl. 2 (verso); Falk, Basel, p. 91, under no. 207 (verso); BM Dürer and Holbein, pp. 190-1, no. 161, repr. (recto and verso).' For an analysis of the technique and preparation of the sheet of this drawing, see Russell, Rayner and Bescoby, 2016.
Additional bibliography: Katharina Krause, 'Hans Holbein der Aeltere', Munich and Berlin, 2002, pp. 227 (recto), 71, 348, n.123 (verso); G. Bartrum in Stacey Sell and Hugo Chapman, 'Drawing in Silver and Gold: Leonardo to Jasper Johns', Princeton and Oxford, 2015 pp. 67-68, pl. 21; Joanna Russell, Judith Rayner and Jenny Bescoby, ' Northern European Metalpoint Drawings: technical examination and analysis', London, 2016, pp.24, 25, 69; Olenka Horbatsch, 'Hans Holbein the Younger as Designer for Goldsmiths in Tudor England' in A Royal Renaissance Treasure and its Afterlives: The Royal Clock Salt, eds. D. Thornton and T. Schroder, London 2021, fig. 71.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1961, Manchester, City Art Gallery, 'German Art', no. 68
1988, July-Oct, BM, Age of Dürer & Holbein, no. 161
2006/7 Sep-Jan, London, Tate Britain, 'Holbein in England'
2015 May-Jul, Washington, NGA, 'Drawing in Silver and Gold' recto
2015 10 Sep-6 Dec. BM 'Drawing in Silver and Gold' recto and verso
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number