William Roper (1493/94–1578)

Hans Holbein the Younger (German, Augsburg 1497/98–1543 London)

Vellum laid on card
Diameter 1 3/4 in. (45 mm)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1950
Accession Number:
  • Catalogue Entry


  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Inscribed (horizontally, in gold): AoN ÆTATIS SVÆ · XLIIo ·

  • Provenance

    by descent in the Roper family; Baron Alfred Charles de Rothschild, London and Halton, England (by 1906–d. 1918); his daughter, Almina, Countess of Carnarvon, London and Bretby Park, Burton on Trent, Staffordshire (1918–24; sold to Duveen); [Duveen, London, 1924–28; given to Goldman]; Mr. and Mrs. Henry Goldman, New York (1928–his d. 1937); Mrs. Henry Goldman, New York (1937–48; given or sold to Duveen); [Duveen, New York, 1948–50; sold to MMA]

  • Exhibition History

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Four Centuries of Miniature Painting," January 19–March 19, 1950, unnumbered cat. (p. 2, lent anonymously).

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "German Drawings: Masterpieces from Five Centuries," May 10–June 10, 1956, suppl. no. 200 (with MMA 50.69.2).

    London. National Portrait Gallery. "'The King's Good Servant': Sir Thomas More, 1477/8–1535," November 25, 1977–March 12, 1978, no. 174 (with MMA 50.69.2).

    New York. Pierpont Morgan Library. "Holbein and the Court of Henry VIII," April 21–July 30, 1983, no. 2.

    London. Victoria and Albert Museum. "Artists of the Tudor Court: The Portrait Miniature Rediscovered, 1520–1620," July 9–November 6, 1983, no. 27.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "European Miniatures in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," November 5, 1996–January 5, 1997, no. 4.

    London. Victoria and Albert Museum. "Gothic: Art for England, 1400–1547," October 9, 2003–January 18, 2004, no. 163a.

    London. Tate Britain. "Holbein in England," September 28, 2006–January 7, 2007, no. 37.

  • References

    H. C. Marillier. "Christie's" 1766 to 1925. London, 1926, p. 225.

    Paul Ganz. Die Handzeichnungen Hans Holbeins d.J.: Kritischer Katalog. Berlin, 1937, p. 21, under no. 93, erroneously as in the Duveen collection; identifies the sitters in this and MMA 50.69.2 as William Roper and Margaret More.

    Paul Ganz. Letter. March 31, 1948, as "very good quality" works by Holbein.

    Paul Ganz. The Paintings of Hans Holbein. London, 1950, p. 258, no. 134, pl. 175, erroneously as in the collection of Mrs. Henry Goldman.

    F. Grossmann. "Holbein Studies—II." Burlington Magazine 93 (April 1951), p. 114.

    Josephine L. Allen. "Some Notes on Miniatures." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 13 (April 1955), pp. 244–45, ill.

    E. E. Reynolds. Margaret Roper, Eldest Daughter of St. Thomas More. New York, 1960, pp. 30, 142, pl. VI.

    Leo R. Schidlof. The Miniature in Europe in the 16th, 17th, 18, and 19th Centuries. Graz, Austria, 1964, vol. 1, p. 368; vol. 2, p. 975; vol. 3, pl. 290, fig. 569.

    Roy Strong. Tudor & Jacobean Portraits. London, 1969, vol. 1, p. 269, states that the portraits are by Holbein but that the identities of the sitters "remain unproven".

    J. B. Trapp and Hubertus Schulte Herbrüggen. "The King's Good Servant": Sir Thomas More, 1477/8–1535. Exh. cat., National Portrait Gallery. London, 1977, pp. 87, 89, no. 174 (with MMA 50.69.2), ill.

    Daphne Foskett. Collecting Miniatures. Woodbridge, England, 1979, p. 47, as recently added to the list of "possibly authentic" miniatures by Holbein.

    Jane Roberts. Holbein. London, 1979, p. 96, no. 93, ill. p. 97, believes it impossible to date the pair of miniatures precisely, and notes that they are "tentatively attributed to Holbein by most scholars, but the hand seems slightly different to that seen in the artist's other miniatures".

    Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 263, 266, fig. 476 (color, with 50.69.2).

    Roy Strong in The English Miniature. Exh. cat., Yale Center for British Art, Yale University. New Haven, 1981, p. 36, fig. 51.

    Roy Strong in Artists of the Tudor Court: The Portrait Miniature Rediscovered, 1520–1620. Exh. cat., Victoria and Albert Museum. London, 1983, pp. 46–47, no. 27.

    Roy Strong. The English Renaissance Miniature. New York, 1983, pp. 46–47, no. 5, fig. 42.

    John Rowlands. Holbein: The Paintings of Hans Holbein the Younger. Oxford, 1985, pp. 90, 150, no. M. 4, pl. 129, dates the miniatures probably 1536 on the basis of the inscription on the portrait of Margaret.

    Graham Reynolds. English Portrait Miniatures. rev. ed. [1st ed., 1952]. Cambridge, 1988, pp. 6–7, fig. 2.

    Graham Reynolds with the assistance of Katharine Baetjer. European Miniatures in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1996, pp. 12, 14, 69–70, no. 4, colorpl. 4 and ill. p. 69.

    Katharine Baetjer. "British Portraits in The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 57 (Summer 1999), pp. 6–7, ill. (color).

    Susan Foister in Gothic: Art for England, 1400–1547. Exh. cat., Victoria and Albert Museum. London, 2003, p. 299, no. 163a, ill. (color).

    Susan Foister. Holbein and England. New Haven, 2004, p. 98.

    Susan Foister. Holbein in England. Exh. cat., Tate Britain. London, 2006, pp. 41, 46, 175, no. 37, ill. (color).

  • Notes

    This is the only known portrait of William Roper, whose birth is variously recorded as 1493, 1496, and 1498. He was admitted to Lincoln's Inn in 1518, and may have lodged with the More family from that time. On July 2, 1521, the bishop of London issued a license for his marriage to Margaret More (1505–1544), eldest child of Sir Thomas More. Roper is known to have been in sympathy with the Protestants at the time, but was brought back to Catholicism by his father-in-law. His sympathetic life of Thomas More, compiled about 1556 and first published in 1626, is the earliest and chief source for information about More's personal history.

    This is the pendant to MMA 50.69.2.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History