“Sir Thomas More” by Hans Holbein the Younger
“Sir Thomas More” by Hans Holbein the Younger was created shortly after Holbein arrived in London. Holbein’s friend, the Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus, recommended that Holbein befriend More, who was then a powerful, knighted speaker at the English Parliament. Moore played a prominent role during his lifetime, and his courageous actions echo down through the history. Pope Pius XI canonised Thomas More in 1935 as a martyr. Pope John Paul II in 2000 declared him the “heavenly Patron of Statesmen and Politicians.” The Soviet Union honoured him for his attitude toward property rights expressed in his book Utopia, which is about the political system of an imaginary, ideal island nation, published in 1516
Thomas More, was an English lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman, and noted Renaissance humanist. He was also a counsellor to Henry VIII, and Lord High Chancellor of England from October 1529 to 1532. More opposed the Protestant Reformation and he also opposed the king’s separation from the Catholic Church, refusing to acknowledge King Henry VIII as Supreme Head of the Church of England and the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. After refusing to take the Oath of Supremacy, he was convicted of treason and beheaded. Of his execution, he was reported to have said:
“I die the King’s good servant, and God’s first.”
This portrait is closely related to drawings in the Royal Collection, and there is a copy of this painting in the National Portrait Gallery. Another Holbein portrait of More, part of a large group portrait of his family, is now lost, but several drawings copies survive.
Hans Holbein the Younger worked in a Northern Renaissance style and is recognised as one of the greatest portraitist of the 16th century. He also produced religious art, satire and Reformation propaganda. He is called “the Younger” to distinguish him from his father, Hans Holbein the Elder, an accomplished painter of the Late Gothic school.
Holbein travelled to England in 1526 and was welcomed into the humanist circle of Thomas More, where he quickly built a high reputation. Later he also worked under the patronage of Anne Boleyn and Thomas Cromwell. By 1535, he was King’s Painter to King Henry VIII. His portraits of the royal family and nobles are a historical visual record of the court during the years when Henry was asserting his supremacy over the English church.
Sir Thomas More
- Title: Sir Thomas More
- Artist: Hans Holbein the Younger
- Created: 1527
- Medium: oil on oak panel
- Dimensions: Height: 74.9 cm (29.5 in). Width: 60.3 cm (23.7 in).
- Museum: Frick Collection, New York
Hans Holbein the Younger
- Name: Hans Holbein the Younger
- Born: c. 1497 – Augsburg, Free imperial city, Holy Roman Empire
- Died: 1543 (aged 45) – London, England
- Nationality: German Swiss
- Movement: Northern Renaissance
- Notable work:
“Art is never finished, only abandoned.” – Leonardo da Vinci
Photo Credit 1) Hans Holbein [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons