HANS HOLBEIN THE YOUNGER
Portrait of Simon George of Cornwall
Mixed technique on oakwood
Inv. No. 1065
38.8 × 38.8 cm
The younger Holbein will have met this member of the landed gentry at the London court of King Henry VIII, where he served as painter. The carnation signifies that the subject’s desire to marry, as does the clasp on his beret. The latter depicts the myth of Leda’s union with Zeus in the form of a swan, revealing the nobleman’s erotic intentions in the indirect manner demanded by his status. Simon George aimed to please not only by sporting an elaborate costume in the latest fashion; he also chose the newly revived tondo form, derived from antique coins. Holbein’s painterly finesse – for example in the porcelain-like quality of the flesh – contributes to the image’s perfect harmony.
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