- Museum number
Medallion or cap-badge with a figure of John the Baptist, one of ten designs for medallions, from the 'Jewellery Book'; whole-length figure facing front, holding a lamb and cross in his left arm, flanked by the outline of scrolls, circular
Pen and brown and black ink, with grey, red and blue-green wash
- Production date
- 1532-1543 (circa)
Height: 46 millimetres
Width: 46 millimetres (diameter)
- Curator's comments
- See also SL,5308.1-179
LITERATURE: Waagen, Treasures, i, p. 203; BM Guide, 1862 (1867), p. 6, no. 9.2; Woltmann, i, p. 439, ii, p. 133, no. 186; LB, ii, p. 339, no. 35c; Chamberlain, ii, p. 284, pl. 50, 3; Ganz, p. 69, no. 390, repr.; White, p. 559, no. 20; Sutton Place, Renaissance, p. 79, no. 66 111 c
As Ganz noted, Holbein initially drew within the narrow pointed shape used for ecclesiastical and monastic seals (see the design for such a seal by Hans Weiditz, no. 474), and then widened it by redrawing the scrolls on either side. He further suggested that it was intended to be a preparatory design for a seal for St John's College, Cambridge, which is impossible as this foundation is dedicated to St John the Evangelist (St John's College, Oxford, was founded only in 1555). Many religious foundations, especially hospitals, were dedicated to St John the Baptist, but this design cannot be linked with any English seals, to judge from the collections in the Department of Manuscripts, British Library, and in the Department of Medieval & Later Antiquities, British Museum. But given Holbein's broadening of the design it is in any case more likely that it was meant to be for a medallion pendant, brooch or cap-badge; indeed, among the gifts sent by the Princess Mary to the young Edward VI we find a tantalising reference to a gold brooch enclosing the figure of St John the Baptist, which might perhaps be related to the present design (Madden, ‘Expenses’, p. 43). Leaving aside speculation, we should note that Charles de Solier, Sire de Morette, was painted by Holbein wearing a cap-badge of St John the Baptist, inscribed “DUCE ME FACERE VOLUNTATEM", around the edge (Rowlands, ‘Holbein’, pp. 141-2, no. 53, repr.). The representation of the saint in the badge is fairly close to this design, except that the saint, while pointing to the Lamb in the usual way, is turned to the right. Naturally, while it does not follow that a cap-badge depicted in one of his portraits must necessarily have been designed by him, we do nevertheless have the case of the surviving design of the jewelled medallion of Lot and his family (SL,5308.25), the executed piece of which appears worn by the sitter in ‘Portrait of a lady, probably a member of the Cromwell family’ (Rowlands, ‘Holbein’, p. 146, no. 69, repr.).
The presence of this saint among objects of personal use at this period is quite marked. For instance, the sitter in the painted portrait, supposedly of Prince Arthur at Windsor Castle, appears to be wearing such a cap-badge (Millar, ‘Tudor—Early Georgian Pictures’, p. 53, no. 20, repr.). Also the saint occurs on an earlier example, the medal of Charles de Bourbon, Archbishop of Lyons of c. 1486. On its reverse is likewise shown St John the Baptist holding the Lamb (see Mark Jones, ‘A Catalogue of the French Medals in the British Museum. 1402-1610’. London, 1982, i, pp. 33-34, no. 12, repr.).
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1983 May-Sep, Sutton Place, Guildford, 'Renaissance', no. 66iii
2021-22, 19 Oct-9 Jan, Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Holbein: Capturing Character in the Renaissance
2022, 11 Feb-15 May, New York, The Morgan Library & Museum, Holbein: Capturing Character in the Renaissance
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Transferred from the Dept. of Manuscripts to Prints + Drawings on 20 July 1860. For a history of the contents of Sloane 5308, see SL,5308.1.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: Add.5308.a (Dept. of Manuscripts Mss no.)