Holbein’s Earliest Extant Painting (1516)

Some of the earliest surviving paintings by Hans Holbein the Younger were done in collaboration with his brother, Ambrosius. They are two wooden signs - advertising, really - made for a schoolmaster. Yet, even in these simple images, the painters paint themselves. Both pupils are posed as the artists themselves may have while painting these small boards. The boy with his back to us holds a quill over his unseen paper or board while the other points his finger at some written lines closely resembling Holbein's own writing above.

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Captions for image(s) above:

Hans Holbein the Younger in collaboration with Ambrosius Holbein, Signboard for Schoolmaster Oswald Myconius, one of a pair  (1516)

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In the second image the boy dressed in green, being thrashed with twigs by the master at his desk, reads from script that even more closely rhymes with Holbein's own lines. Thus, unknown to the schoolmaster who commissioned these boards, his two pupils symbolize two young artists learning from a (great) master. There can be little doubt that these similarities were intended because the parallels are just too close for coincidence.

Besides, in a portrait of Jakob Meyer zum Hasen from the same year, a similar message is conveyed by different means.

Captions for image(s) above:

 

Hans Holbein the Younger in collaboration with Ambrosius Holbein, Signboard for Schoolmaster Oswald Myconius, one of a pair  (1516)

Click image to enlarge.

Notes:

Original Publication Date on EPPH: 05 Mar 2011. © Simon Abrahams. Articles on this site are the copyright of Simon Abrahams. To use copyrighted material in print or other media for purposes beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Websites may link to this page without permission (please do) but may not reproduce the material on their own site without crediting Simon Abrahams and EPPH.