Gothic Era

Gothic Art Map


Hans Holbein the Elder


German family of artists. Hans Holbein, who became one of the leading painters in south Germany, was the son of Michael Holbein, a tanner, who may have settled in Augsburg from Basle, and of Anna Mair, through whom he was related to important artists working in and near Augsburg. These included his uncles Hans Mair (probably identical with the painter Mair von Landshut) and Michel Erhart, and his cousins Gregor Erhart, Paulus Erhart and Hans Daucher, all of whom were sculptors. Apparently included in Hans Holbein’s workshop was his brother Sigmund Holbein (d Berne, 1540), whom Hans portrayed in a drawing (1512; London, BM). In 1501 they were together at Frankfurt am Main and in 1516–17 Sigmund took proceedings against his brother, who had already left Augsburg. No documented work by Sigmund Holbein survives. Hans Holbein married c. 1494, but the identity of his wife is unknown; their two sons, Ambrosius Holbein and Hans Holbein, also became artists, the latter being among the most important portrait painters in northern Europe during the Reformation.

Hans Holbein the Elder

(b Augsburg, ?1460–65; d 1534). Painter and draughtsman.

The date of his birth has been estimated from his earliest signed painting, the Death of the Virgin (Budapest, Mus. F.A.), which is dated 148(?). His earliest surviving dated altarpiece is the St Afra Altarpiece, produced for the church of SS Ulrich and Afra, Augsburg (1490; Eichstätt, Bischof. Pal.; Basle, Kstmus.). In 1493 he was recorded, buying a house in Augsburg, as ‘Hans Holbein the painter, citizen of Ulm’; he was then working in Ulm with the sculptor Michel Erhart on the Weingartner Altarpiece, depicting scenes from the Life of the Virgin, for the chapel of the Virgin in the Benedictine monastery at Weingarten (1493; panels, Augsburg Cathedral; carvings untraced); here the style of the paintings reveals the influence of the Netherlandish style of Rogier van der Weyden. By this date, however, Holbein had already developed stylistic traits of his own: the ability to depict individual facial characteristics, the clear and symmetrical organization of his figures within the available space (here placing them within various architectural structures, which serve both to delineate the subsidiary scenes and to unify the separate panels of the altarpiece) and the use of warm, glowing colour.


Virgin and Child

c. 1500
Basilica of St. Jacob, Straubing




The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian

c. 1516
Alte Pinakothek, Munich

Death of the Virgin

c. 1490
Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

Wings of the Kaisheim Altarpiece

Alte Pinakothek, Munich

Dominikaneraltar, linker Innenflügel, untere Tafel: Darbietung des Christusknaben im Tempel

Portrait of Ulrich Schwarz and his Family

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