During his second sojourn in England (1532–43) Holbein made portraits for a new clientele, the German merchants of the Hanseatic League, whose guildhall was located in the London Steelyard. The sitter, whose ring displays the arms of the Wedighs of Cologne, is probably Hermann von Wedigh III, portrayed at age twenty-nine. The Latin quotation on the sheet of paper in the foreground, reading "Truth breeds hatred," comes from the Roman comedy Andria by Terence, popular among Humanists. The inserted slip of paper could thus refer to the book’s content and perhaps have served as the sitter’s personal motto.
The attribution of this painting to Hans Holbein the Younger, whose initials appear on the cover of the book on the table, has never been questioned. Because of its remarkably well preserved state, it is considered one of the artist's most important extant works. The panel is among the earliest portraits that Holbein made of German merchants of the Hanseatic League, whose guildhall was located in the London Steelyard. Holbein produced these portraits during his second stay in England (1532–43), when he turned to a new clientele. The specific function served by the individual portraits of this group is not known. Because the paintings vary in size, composition, and the pose of each sitter, it is unlikely that they were made to hang together in the guildhall. They were perhaps sent home to family members as a source of comfort during long periods of absence.
Theodor von Frimmel (1887, 1888) recognized the sitter as a member of the Wedigh family, based on the coat of arms on the figure's signet ring, a chevron surrounded by three willow leaves, and the inscription "HER . . . WID" (Hermann Wedigh) on the gilt and gauffered fore-edge of the prominently displayed book. The "W" within the shield between "HER" and "WID" might also stand for "Wedigh," but more likely is the symbol for the Windeck. This was an organization for members of the Cologne Merchant Guild, a political as well as professional group that elected representatives to the Cologne Assembly. Considering the inscriptions to the left and right of the sitter's head—the date of 1532 and the sitter's age of 29—this is probably the likeness of Hermann von Wedigh III, who was the son of Hermann von Wedigh II and Barbara von der Linden. Although Hermann III is not recorded in the 1530s in England at the Steelyard, his name appears in that register in the years 1553, 1554, and 1557. He was married to Sophia Hörners (died 1567), with whom he had eight children, and became a judge in Niederich and alderman of the Cologne Assembly.
Another Steelyard portrait of a member of the Wedigh family, likewise identified by the coat of arms on his signet ring, is dated 1533. This is the so-called Hermann Hillebrandt von Wedigh (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin). The two Wedigh portraits share a common provenance in the eighteenth century in the Schörnborn collection in Vienna, suggesting that they might have originally been intended to hang together. Although the Berlin portrait deviates from the MMA panel in its frontal pose and the absence of the foreground table, the two have other features in common: they are nearly exactly the same size, and share the bright blue background with similar gold lettering arranged to the direct left and right of the heads of the sitters, indicating the year the portraits were each painted and the ages of the sitters. These appear to be the earliest examples of this type of inscription that subsequently became more commonplace in Holbein's portraits.
Unlike other portraits of Holbein's second English visit, there are no surviving preparatory drawings for those of the members of the Hanseatic League. A study of the Museum's portrait with infrared reflectography, furthermore, shows that the nature of the underdrawing does not indicate a transfer from a pattern drawing or cartoon, which was common for Holbein's working method at this time. Because of both the lack of any preparatory drawings on paper for the Hanseatic League portraits and the shifts from the loose underdrawing to the final painted stages of the portrait, one wonders whether such portraits were painted by Holbein directly from life.
Woltmann (1868, 1872) read the inscription on the paper inserted in the book as "Veritas odiu[m] ponit [sic]," and presumed that the volume is a Protestant Bible of the type that was introduced in England at the time. In this reading, which was reiterated by Buvelot (2003) and Foister (2004, 2006), the "hatred" would refer to the turbulent times of the Reformation and opposition to the "truth" of the Bible that was advanced by Reformers. The name of the sitter on the gold edge of the book would thus identify him as a supporter of Protestant reform. Another suggestion for the identification of the book, due to this inscription, is the writing of Hermann Wied, the archbishop of Cologne and a noted reformer. However, this is unlikely as Wied's texts were published in pamphlet form in the 1530s, not in relatively thick books of octavo format.
An alternative interpretation of the phrase and the book is perhaps more convincing in the light of humanist concerns at the time. The book is unlikely to be a Bible, which were larger in format during this period. The Latin text "Veritas odiu[m] parit" (Truth breeds hatred) comes from the Roman author Terence's Andria (or The Maid from Andros). This phrase was used as a motto by Humanists in the sixteenth century, among them Erasmus, who, in fact, commented on this adage or proverb in his famous Adagia, which was published in a third edition in Basel by Frobenius in 1515. This edition included further reflections on the moral and social applications of these phrases, and made links to political and economic situations. The book in the painting, therefore, might well be intended as a classical text, or indeed Erasmus's Adagia of which there were many editions of the size and format of the book depicted here. The inserted slip of paper would thus serve both as a reference to the content of the book and, perhaps, as a personal motto of the sitter. Rather than his Reformist leanings, the phrase and book may represent Wedigh's Humanist interests. In keeping with this interpretation is the prominent inscription in Roman capitals for the year and age of the sitter that Holbein first introduced for portraiture in this work. This form of inscription was commonly used by contemporary artists, including Cranach and Dürer, for depictions of classical themes or portraits of prominent Humanists. [2011; adapted from Ainsworth 2013]
The support is composed of two radial-cut boards of Baltic oak, with the grain oriented vertically. Dendrochronological analysis indicated an earliest possible fabrication date of 1525. A bevel is present on the right side of the verso, and there are narrower bevels at its top and bottom. Routing tracks measuring .8 centimeters in width from the original, engaged frame appear along the top and bottom edges of the verso. The panel may have been trimmed slightly. A cross-grain wood addition to the bottom, set into the routing track, increased the height of the panel by 1.3 centimeters. The panel has a slight convex lateral warp. The panel was prepared with a white ground followed by a pink priming. This pink layer was used compositionally in the black robe, where it is visible beneath the open, dark brushwork and creates a range of purplish gray tones. Furthermore, while the black paint was still wet, it was scraped through with an instrument, such as the pointed end of a brush, exposing the pink priming to indicate stitching along the edges of the velvet bands that embellish the shoulder seams of the robe. Infrared reflectography (see Additional Images, fig. 1) revealed a cursive line indicating the contour of the head and the outlines of facial features, possibly executed with a dry drawing medium such as black chalk, as well as some reinforcements with a brush and black pigment. The line of the mouth and contour of the chin were painted slightly lower than the drawn lines, while the right eye was moved up during the painting stage. The profile of the right side of the face was adjusted slightly, and the outlines of the fingers were closely but not exactly followed in the paint layers. The paint layers are in an excellent state of preservation, which is notable given the great economy with which the portrait was painted. The flesh tones are thickly applied, with smoothly blended transitions. A wet-in-wet technique was used for many of the facial details, including the eyelashes, the irises, pupils, and even the highlights of the eyes. Other details, such as some of the lower eyelashes and the fine light and dark strokes in the hair, were added over dry paint. The tiny, stubbly facial hairs are individually painted. Although in general the clothing is thinly painted, a thick application of white paint was used for the low-relief embroidery on the shirt. The paper inserted in the book has a dragged edge that appears to have been made by lifting a straightedge off the still-wet paint. This contour was subsequently sharpened by overlapping it with the dark coppery green of the tablecloth. The glove was added over the completed left hand. Mordant gilding was used for the gold embellishments throughout the painting. For the clasp of the book, a thick, creamy white mordant produces a low-relief surface. The cream-colored mordant of the decorative design on the top edge of the book also creates a low relief, but not all the decorations laid out in this particular mordant were gilded. This suggests that the mordant may have dried too quickly, thus preventing the gold leaf from adhering. A full-bodied, creamy mordant is used for the oval-shaped crest of the ring; however, the gold adjacent to the oval has been adhered with a much thinner mordant. The monogram WH on the ring, painted with pale yellow, is so small it can be read only with magnification. A thin, white, translucent mordant is barely discernible below the well-preserved inscription. It is most easily seen with magnification in areas where small changes have been made in the letters. Traces of gold indicate that some parts of the letters were initially broader, while others were smaller. The remains of the gilding in the inscription are for the most part found around the perimeter of the mordant. [2013; adapted from German Paintings catalogue]
Inscription: Signed, dated, and inscribed: (across center) ANNO.1532. ÆTATIS.SVÆ.29.; (on cover of book) ·H·H·; (on edge of book) HER[W within a shield]WID.; (on sheet of paper in book) Veritas odiu[m] parit:~ (Truth breeds hatred [Terence, Andria, l. 69].)
Grafen Schönborn, later Schönborn-Buchheim, Schönborn Gallery, Vienna (by 1746–1903; inv., 1746); Friedrich Karl, 10th Graf von Schönborn-Buchheim, Vienna (1903–23; cat., 1905, no. 41, as "Portrait of a Man"; sold for Fr 1,200,000 to Duveen); [Duveen, London, Paris, and New York, 1923]; Mr. and Mrs. Frank D. Stout, Chicago (1923–35; sold by Mrs. Stout's estate to Knoedler); [Knoedler, New York, 1935–36; sold to Harkness]; Edward S. Harkness, New York (1936–d. 1940; life interest to his widow, Mary Stillman Harkness, 1940–d. 1950)
Dresden. Pavillon des Zwingers. "Holbein-Ausstellung," August 15–October 15, 1871, no. 327 (as "Männliches Bildniss," lent by Erlaucht Erwin Graf von Schönborn-Buchheim. Gemäldesammlung).
Art Institute of Chicago. "Summer Loan Exhibition," July 1–September 2, 1924, no catalogue? (from the the collection of Frank D. Stout).
Art Institute of Chicago. "A Century of Progress," June 1–November 1, 1934, no. 20 (as "Portrait of a Member of the Wedigh Family of Cologne," lent anonymously).
New York. World's Fair. "Masterpieces of Art: European Paintings and Sculpture from 1300–1800," May–October 1939, no. 197 (as "Hermann Wedigh of Cologne," lent by Mr. Edward S. Harkness, New York).
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Works by Holbein & Other Masters of the 16th and 17th Centuries," December 9, 1950–March 7, 1951, no. 9 (as "A Member of the Wedigh Family").
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Art Treasures of the Metropolitan," November 7, 1952–September 7, 1953, no. 107.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "German Drawings: Masterpieces from Five Centuries," May 10–June 10, 1956, suppl. no. 199.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Masterpieces of Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 16–November 1, 1970, unnumbered cat. (p. 50).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries," November 15, 1970–February 15, 1971, no. 234.
The Hague. Mauritshuis. "Hans Holbein the Younger, 1497/98–1543: Portraitist of the Renaissance," August 16–November 16, 2003, no. 12 (as "Hermann von Wedigh III [c. 1503–1560]").
London. Tate Britain. "Holbein in England," September 28, 2006–January 7, 2007, no. 62 (as Hermann von Wedigh).
A. R. von Perger. Die Kunstschätze Wien's in Stahlstich nebst erläuterndem Text. Trieste, 1854, p. 82, mentions two portraits of men in the Schönborn collection [our portrait and one now in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, representing a member of the same family].
G. Parthey. Deutscher Bildersaal. Vol. 1, A–K. Berlin, 1863, p. 608, lists under Holbein, nos. 21 and 22, the two portraits of men in the Schönborn collection, Vienna.
G. F. Waagen. Die vornehmsten Kunstdenkmäler in Wien. part 1, Vienna, 1866, pp. 313–14.
Alfred Woltmann. Holbein und seine Zeit. Vol. 2, Leipzig, 1868, pp. 230–31, suggests that the portraits from the Schönborn collection represent Englishmen who favored the Reformation, and that the book shown here with the piece of paper inscribed "Veritas odium ponit [sic]" may be one of those writings which the German Reformation was exporting to England at the time.
W. Bürger [Théophile Thoré]. "Nouvelles études sur la Galerie Suermondt à Aix-la-Chapelle." Gazette des beaux-arts, 2nd ser., 1 (1869), p. 16, notes that the two portraits from the Schönborn collection [see Ref. Parthey 1863] were there in 1746 and adds that each sitter wears a ring bearing the same coat of arms; reports that the other portrait [now in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin] was recently acquired by the Suermondt collection.
Carl von Lützow. "Ergebnisse der Dresdener Holbein-Austellung." Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst 6 (1871), p. 350, states that the two Holbeins from the Schönborn collection were exhibited in Munich in 1869.
Alfred Woltmann. Holbein and his Time. London, 1872, pp. 358–59.
Alfred Woltmann. Holbein und seine Zeit. Vol. , Des Kunstlers Familie, Leben und Schaffen. 2nd rev. ed. Leipzig, 1874, p. 369, refers to this portrait and the related work in Berlin as pendants and discusses them among Holbein's likenesses of German merchants of the Steelyard in London.
Alfred Woltmann. Holbein und seine Zeit. Vol. 2, Excurse, Beilagen, Verzeichnisse der Werke von Hans Holbein d. Ä., Ambrosius Holbein, Hans Holbein d. J.. 2nd rev. ed. Leipzig, 1876, p. 155, no. 262, notes that both sitters have the same coat of arms on their signet rings.
Julius Meyer and Wilhelm Bode. Beschreibendes Verzeichniss der während des umbaues ausgestellten Gemälde. Berlin, 1878, p. 167, under no. 586C, refers to the Berlin and Schönborn Holbeins as pendants.
Paul Mantz. Hans Holbein. Paris, , p. 191.
L. Scheibler and W. Bode. Beschreibendes Verzeichniss der Gemälde. Ed. Julius Meyer. 2nd ed. Berlin, 1883, p. 207, under no. 586C, note that according to Privy Councilor Dielitz, the coats of arms on the signet rings are those of the Trelawnay family of England, but that Woltmann thinks the two sitters are merchants of the Stahlhof.
W[ilhelm von]. Bode. "La Renaissance au musée de Berlin." Gazette des beaux-arts, 2nd ser., 35 (1887), p. 442, mentions it as a pendant to the related portrait in the Berlin Gemäldegalerie, and identifies the sitter in the latter as a member of the Trelawnay family.
Th. Frimmel. "Kunsthistorisches: Zwei Bildnisse von Hans Holbein d. J." Kunstchronik [in Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst] 22 (1887), cols. 379–80, identifies the coats of arms on the rings in the two portraits as those of the Wedigh family of Cologne; believes the classical inscription may be an indication that the book is by Pietro Aretino, to whom he attributes this device.
J. J. Merlo. "Die Bildnisse der Gebrüder Wedigh aus Köln, von Hans Holbein dem Jüngern gemalt." Kölnischen Volkszeitung 28, no. 117 (April 29, 1887 (morning edition)), unpaginated, front page, using the family tree in Anton Fahne's "Geschichte der Kölnischen, Jülichschen und Bergischen Geschlechter," vol. 1, Cologne, 1848, p. 445, and based on the inscription "HER WID," suggests that the sitter's name was Hermann, a name that appears in all generations of the Wedigh family (also spelled Widigh and Wedich); finds it impossible to suggest an identification for the Wedigh in the Berlin picture, but believes both sitters were the sons of Heinrich von Wedigh; remarks that Heinrich's house in Cologne—Falkenstein—lodged Frederick the Wise and John the Constant during the 1505 Reichstag in Cologne.
Theodor von Frimmel. "Galerie des Grafen Schönborn-Buchheim: Hans Holbein der Jüngere, Bildniss von Hermann Wedig." Wiener Galerien 6. Lieferung (1888), unpaginated, ill. [reprinted as "Das Wedigh-Bildnis von Hans Holbein dem Jüngeren in der Wiener Galerie Schönborn-Puchheim [sic]," in Von alter und neuer Kunst: Ausgewählte kunstgeschichtliche Aufsätze, Vienna, 1922, pp. 48–49, ill. opp. p. 48], identifies the sitter as Hermann Wedig, probably one of the German merchants active in London's Stahlhof.
Franz von Reber and Ad. Bayersdorfer, ed. Klassischer Bilderschatz. Vol. 1, Munich, 1889, p. XIV, no. 94, ill., erroneously illustrate it as a self-portrait of Holbein at the age of 29.
Theodor von Frimmel. "Die gräflich Schönborn-Buchheim'sche Gemäldesammlung in Wien." Kleine Galeriestudien. n.s., 3. lieferung, Leipzig, 1896, pp. 41–43, no. 41, reiterates his belief that the sitter is a member of the Wedigh family of Cologne, probably Hermann Wedigh.
Bernard Berenson. Letter to Isabella Stewart Gardner. December 10, 1897, recommends this portrait to Mrs. Gardner for purchase, calling it "the best, the very best [Holbein], to be had at all," and in "perfect preservation".
H. Knackfuss. Holbein. Bielefeld, 1899, p. 132, fig. 118, as a portrait of a German merchant in London "conceived in a sympathetic and simple manner".
Hermann Freytag. "Das Bildnis eines Danzigers, von Hans Holbein gemalt." Zeitschrift des westpreussischen Geschichtsvereins no. 40 (1899), p. 108, identifies a group of six Steelyard portraits by Holbein, including our picture, then in the Schönborn collection.
Gerald S. Davies. Hans Holbein the Younger. London, 1903, p. 216, as "Portrait of a Young Man"; notes that the ring is said to show the same coat of arms as the Berlin portrait, identified as those of the Cornish family of Trelawney.
François Benoit. Holbein. Paris, , p. 159.
forward by [Wilhelm von] Bode. Beschreibendes Verzeichnis der Gemälde im Kaiser Friedrich-Museum. 6th ed. Berlin, 1906, pp. 177–78, under no. 586B, calls the Berlin picture "Portrait of a Young Man," but in the text identifies the sitter as Hermann Hillebrandt Wedigh and the sitter in the Schönborn gallery "pendant" as one of his brothers.
Salomon Reinach. Répertoire de peintures du moyen age et de la renaissance (1280–1580). Vol. 2, Paris, 1907, p. 317, ill. (engraving).
Paul Ganz. Hans Holbein d. J.: Des Meisters Gemälde. Stuttgart, 1912, pp. 240, 257, ill. p. 97.
Arthur B. Chamberlain. Hans Holbein the Younger. London, 1913, vol. 2, pp. 15–17, considers the sitters in the related "companion" portraits brothers or near relations from the Wedigh family, identifying the Berlin subject as Hermann Hillebrandt Wedigh.
H. Knackfuß. Holbein der Jüngere. 5th German ed. Bielefeld, 1914, p. 127, fig. 126.
Wilhelm Geelen. "Mitteilungen über Porträts des Kölner Patriciergeschlechts von Wedigh und Unterlagen zur Bestimmung derselben." Beiträge zur Kölnischen Geschichte, Sprache, Eigenart 2, parts 10–11 (January 1917), pp. 178–80, 194, ill. p. 177, identifies our sitter as Hermann III von Wedigh "zu den Kannegeißern," who married Sophia Hörners, was a "Schöffe" [judge?] in Niedrich in 1557, later "Ratsherr" [city councilor] in Cologne, and died in 1560 or after 1567; believes the "H. H." on the book cover stands for Hermann Hermannsohn and suggests that the Latin inscription is the device of either the sitter or of the Wedigh family; does not believe there is enough evidence to identify the Berlin sitter with Hermann Hillebrandt Wedigh.
H. A. Schmid inAllgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Hans Vollmer. Vol. 17, Leipzig, 1924, p. 349.
"Summer Loan Exhibitions." Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago 18 (September 1924), ill. p. 79.
W. A. P. "Loan Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Frank D. Stout." Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago 18 (October 1924), p. 90.
Malcolm Vaughan. "Holbein Portraits in America." International Studio 88 (November 1927), pp. 23–24, ill.
Frederick Bentz. "Holbein's Technique." Burlington Magazine 51 (August 1927), pp. 67–68, discusses the technique as seen in his examination of this portrait with a microscope.
Wilhelm Stein. Holbein. Berlin, 1929, pp. 226–28, fig. 86, identifies the sitter as "a Wedigh from Cologne," the brother of Hermann Hillebrandt Wedigh, whose portrait is in Berlin.
Daniel Catton Rich. "Die Ausstellung 'Fünf Jahrhunderte der Frühmalerei' in Chicago." Pantheon 12 (1933), p. 372, ill. p. 375.
Paul Ganz. "The Castle Howard Portrait of Henry VIII." Burlington Magazine 64 (February 1934), p. 85, notes that in this portrait Holbein placed "two single H's on the prayer-book by way of ornament".
Charles L. Kuhn. A Catalogue of German Paintings of the Middle Ages and Renaissance in American Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1936, p. 81, no. 360, pl. 74, as "Portrait of a Member of the Wedigh Family" in the collection of Mrs. Frank D. Stout; believes this is likely a pendant to the Berlin portrait of "Hermann Wedigh".
Wilhelm Waetzoldt. Hans Holbein der Jüngere: Werk und Welt. Berlin, 1938, p. 174, pl. 83, identifies the sitter as "Hans Wedigh".
George Henry McCall. Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture from 1300–1800: Masterpieces of Art. Ed. William R. Valentiner. Exh. cat., World's Fair. New York, 1939, p. 95, no. 197, pl. 43.
Paul Wescher. Grosskaufleute der Renaissance: In Biographien und Bildnissen. Basel, 1941?, p. 187, ill. p. 151.
Alfred Leroy. Hans Holbein et son temps. Paris, 1943, p. 170, as a portrait of a member of the Wedigh family of Cologne.
Harry B. Wehle and Margaretta Salinger. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Early Flemish, Dutch and German Paintings. New York, 1947, pp. 214–16, ill., as "Portrait of a Member of the Wedigh Family," either the brother or cousin of the sitter in the Berlin portrait, noting that this Cologne family was connected with the London Steelyard by 1480; read the motto as "Veritas Odiu[m] parit (Truth breeds hatred)" and identify its source as Terence, "Andria," line 69.
Heinrich Alfred Schmid. Hans Holbein der Jüngere: Sein Aufstieg zur Meisterschaft und sein englischer Stil. Vol. 1–2, Basel, 1948, vol. 1, p. 84; vol. 2, pp. 357, 367, as a Wedigh from Cologne; notes that the picture could only have been painted in London; identifies the Berlin picture as Hermann Hillebrandt Wedigh.
Ulrich Christoffel. Hans Holbein d. J. Berlin, 1950, pp. 40–41, fig. 185 [1924 ed., p. 96].
Paul Ganz. The Paintings of Hans Holbein. London, 1950, p. 240, no. 65, pl. 103, as "The Merchant Hermann Wedigh of Cologne," noting that he was been identified by Geelen [Ref. 1917] as Hermann Wedigh III.
"List of Gifts and Bequests of Mr. and Mrs. Harkness." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 10 (October 1951), notes inside front cover, p. 85, ill. on front cover (color).
Wilhelm Pinder. Vom Wesen und Werden Deutscher Formen: Geschichtliche Betrachtungen. Vol. 4, Holbein der Jüngere und das Ende der altdeutschen Kunst: Text und Tafeln. Cologne, 1951, p. 88, mentions it among the Hanseatic merchants painted by Holbein.
Hans Werner Grohn. Hans Hollbein d. J. als Maler. Leipzig, 1955, p. 31, as a portrait of the merchant Hermann Wedigh of Cologne, which should be considered with the 1533 portrait of Hermann Hillebrandt Wedigh in Berlin.
Hildegard Krummacher. "Zu Holbeins Bildnissen rheinischer Stahlhofkaufleute." Wallraf-Richartz-Jahrbuch 25 (1963), pp. 181, 184 n. 10, pp. 185–88,190, fig. 161, identifies the sitter as Hermann Wedigh; notes that the portrait was in Cologne by 1539, as it served as a prototype for Bartel Bruyn's 1539 portrait of an "unknown young man" in the Herzog-Anton-Ulrich Museum in Braunschweig (fig. 159); concludes that with few exceptions, the Steelyard portraits were sent home to serve a private function; sees the influence of Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" [Louvre, Paris] in our portrait and in Holbein's portrait of Derich Born (Windsor Castle).
Hildegard Westhoff-Krummacher. Barthel Bruyn der Ältere als Bildnismaler. PhD diss., Universität Bonn. [Munich], 1965, pp. 38–40, fig. 23.
Gert von der Osten and Horst Vey. Painting and Sculpture in Germany and the Netherlands 1500 to 1600. Baltimore, 1969, p. 229, note that the Roman lettering in Holbein's portraits is "arranged with a supreme feeling for the distribution of planes, and in its turn it contributes to a feeling of abstractness just on the level of the head"; add that "the eyes seem to be seeking something in the distance behind us . . . In the companion portraits of the Wedighs . . ., the anomaly of eyes of different size is stressed as an element of alienation, and only finds its formal compensation in the brim of the cap".
Hans Werner Grohn inL'opera pittorica completa di Holbein il Giovane. Milan, 1971, p. 100, no. 70, ill. p. 99.
Gert von der Osten. Deutsche und niederländische Kunst der Reformationszeit. Cologne, 1973, p. 250.
Katalog der ausgestellten Gemälde des 13.–18. Jahrhunderts. Berlin, 1975, p. 205, under no. 586B, identifies our sitter as Hermann Wedigh, probably the brother of Hermann Hillebrandt Wedigh, the subject of the Berlin portrait; observes that their differences in composition, date, and dimensions make them unlikely pendants.
Deborah Markow. "Hans Holbein's Steelyard Portraits, Reconsidered." Wallraf-Richartz-Jahrbuch 40 (1978), pp. 39–40, fig. 1, following Krummacher [Ref. 1963] sees Holbein's Steelyard portraits—which she counts as seven, including the present work—as souvenirs sent home while the sitter was away in London, or as keepsakes should they die while abroad; remarks on the recurrence in these portraits of the parapet placed between sitter and viewer, noting that the device brings to mind epitaph portraits.
Rollin van N. Hadley. "What Might Have Been: Pictures Mrs. Gardner Did Not Acquire." Fenway Court (1979), p. 43, no. 25, ill.
Thomas S. Holman. "Holbein's Portraits of the Steelyard Merchants: An Investigation." Metropolitan Museum Journal 14 (1979), pp. 139, 144–46, 155, figs. 4, 16 (detail of book), identifies the sitter here as Hermann Wedigh III and calls the young man in the Berlin portrait an undocumented brother or cousin, noting that the latter's identification as Hermann Hillebrandt Wedigh remains open to question; doubts the two portraits were intended as pendants; suggests that the "device separating HER and WID on the fore-edge of the book, most probably stands for the name of Wedigh, but a W within just such a shield was also the symbol of the Windeck, a professional and political organization for members of the Cologne Merchant . . . Guild"; asserts that the same mark appears in the painting of Hans of Antwerp (Royal Collection, Windsor).
Jane Roberts. Holbein. London, 1979, p. 67, no. 56, ill., as "A Member of the Wedigh Family" and the Berlin portrait as "Hillebrandt Wedigh".
Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 261, 263, 266, fig. 477 (color).
Steven David Ross. "The Work of Art and Its General Relations." Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 38 (Summer 1980), p. 429.
John Fletcher and Margaret Cholmondeley Tapper. "Hans Holbein the Younger at Antwerp and in England, 1526–28." Apollo 117 (February 1983), p. 93, fig. 10.
John Rowlands. Holbein: The Paintings of Hans Holbein the Younger. Oxford, 1985, pp. 137, 139, no. 37, pl. 71, remarks that "the identification of the sitter as Hermann Wedigh is uncertain, although HER WID would seem to suggest that it is correct"; likewise considers the identification of the Berlin sitter as "Hermann Hildebrandt [sic]" no more than a surmise.
Kurt Löcher. "Der Londoner Stahlhof und Hans Holbein." Stadt im Wandel: Kunst und Kultur des Bürgertums in Norddeutschland, 1150–1650. Ed. Cord Meckseper. Exh. cat.Stuttgart, 1985, vol. 3, pp. 674, 676–77, 679, fig. 8, rejects the notion that the Steelyard portraits were intended to be hung as a group in the merchant's Guildhall [see Ref. Chamberlain 1913, p. 4], noting that they differ in size, background, the absence of any reference to the Stahlhoff in some of the portraits, and the use of gold inscriptions in some but not in all cases; is inclined to believe the portraits were meant to be sent home to the sitters' families.
Introduction by James Snyder inThe Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Renaissance in the North. New York, 1987, pp. 16, 118–19, ill. (color).
Mark Roskill and Craig Harbison. "On the Nature of Holbein's Portraits." Word & Image 3 (January–March 1987), p. 23, believe the book shown here was "probably used for the settling of accounts," and incorrectly state that the sitter holds bills or invoices in his hand; see the inscription from Terence's "Andria" as a sign of the "animosity and belligerence which German merchants had experienced in London, and with which Holbein presumably identified".
Maryan Ainsworth. "'Paternes for phiosioneamyes': Holbein's Portraiture Reconsidered." Burlington Magazine 132 (March 1990), p. 186, examines the underdrawing of three of Holbein's Steelyard portraits, the present work, Derek Berck [MMA 49.7.29], and an unknown male portrait in the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven; finds in all three "a preliminary, quite cursive underdrawing, perhaps in black chalk, which simply indicates the contour of the head and features of the face," observing that none of them reveal the "schematic, traced underdrawing" typical of other Holbein portraits, in which a drawn study was essentially used as a cartoon for the painting.
J. G. Links. Letter to Katharine Baetjer. September 13, 1993, notes that "the bit of lining [on the overcoat] which shows might be anything but is most probably miniver".
Die Maler tom Ring. Ed. Angelika Lorenz. Exh. cat., Westfälisches Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte. Münster, 1996, vol. 1, p. 93, fig. 12, mentions this portrait and similar examples by Holbein as compositional precedents for portraits by Hermann and Ludger tom Ring.
Stefan Gronert. Bild-Individualität: Die "Erasmus"-Bildnisse von Hans Holbein dem Jüngeren. Basel, 1996, pp. 42–47, 172, 180, fig. 4 (color), interprets the sitter's pose as expressive of doubt and skepticism; notes that the citation from Terence was popular in Humanist circles of the time, and used by Erasmus and Amerbach, among others; sees the phrase "veritas odium parit" as a comment on the contrast between appreciation of the value of Humanist learning ("truth . . .") and acknowledgement of the limited social applicability of that learning (". . . breeds hatred").
Susan Foister inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 14, New York, 1996, p. 671.
Stephanie Buck. Holbein am Hofe Heinrichs VIII. Berlin, 1997, pp. 30, 280, fig. 88.
Susan Foister et al. Making & Meaning: Holbein's Ambassadors. Exh. cat., National Gallery. London, 1997, pp. 82–83, pl. 96 (color), discuss the technique.
D. M. Klinger and Antje Höttler. Die Malerbrüder Ambrosius und Hans d. J. Holbein. Cheb, Czech Republic, 1998, p. 156, no. 40, ill. p. 157 and colorpl. 26.
Rainald Grosshans inGemäldegalerie Berlin: 200 Meisterwerke. Ed. Gesine Asmus and Rainald Grosshans. Vol. 1, Berlin, 1998, p. 106, ill., notes that the identification of the sitter in the Berlin portrait is uncertain, but he may be Hermann Hillebrandt Wedigh, a brother of the sitter in our portrait.
Stephanie Buck. Hans Holbein, 1497/98–1543. Cologne, 1999, p. 95, observes that the inscription "fulfills an important function in introducing a marked horizontal element into the picture, thus lending the figure additional stability . . .".
Ashok Roy and Martin Wyld. "'The Ambassadors' and Holbein's Techniques for Painting on Panel." Hans Holbein: Paintings, Prints, and Reception. Ed. Mark Roskill and John Oliver Hand. Washington, 2001, pp. 104, 106, compare the modeling of the head in this "stunningly well-preserved" portrait to that of the two heads in Holbein's "The Ambassadors" (National Gallery, London); note that the gilded book in the foreground is all gold leaf applied to an adhesive base.
Katrin Petter. "'Wenn du die Stimme hinzufügst, ist hier Derich selbst, . . .'." Belvedere no. 1 (2002), pp. 7–10, 15, fig. 3 (color), considers it unlikely that Wedigh would have had Holbein paint him in London without some reference to the Steelyard if he had included, as he does here, the shield with a W on the side of the book, referring to the Windeck [or merchants' guild] of Cologne; concludes that the portrait was painted in Cologne, where Holbein could have stopped on his journey from Antwerp to London
Quentin Buvelot inHans Holbein the Younger, 1497/98–1543: Portraitist of the Renaissance. Exh. cat., Mauritshuis, The Hague. Zwolle, The Netherlands, 2003, pp. 80–83, 156, 166–67, no. 12, ill. in color (overall and detail), identifies the "volume with gilt clasps" as "probably a bible" and the citation from Terence as a reference to the Bible as a source of the 'true' faith, a commonly held view among Reformers of the time; asserts that in this painting Holbein uses for the first time the pictorial motif of the inscription on either side of the sitter's head providing the date and the sitter's age, a motif that would become characteristic of his portraits; comments on the importance Holbein attached to the rendering of the eyes, noting that infrared examination shows that he altered the position of the left eye.
Meryle Secrest. Duveen: A Life in Art. New York, 2004, p. 449, states that Duveen paid $100,000 for the painting.
Susan Foister. Holbein and England. New Haven, 2004, pp. 10, 12, 36, 206–9, 253, fig. 211 (color) and frontispiece (color detail).
Susan Foister. "Hans Holbein: The Hague." Burlington Magazine 146 (January 2004), p. 51, finds the brilliant blue of this portrait particularly striking in the context of the exhibition and "conceivably a sign that the pigment was mixed with some ultramarine".
Dana Bentley-Cranch. The Renaissance Portrait in France and England: A Comparative Study. Paris, 2004, p. 160 n. 45.
Jochen Sander. Hans Holbein d. J.: Tafelmaler in Basel, 1515–1532. Munich, 2005, p. 29 n. 12, pp. 305, 345, fig. 278, as "Bildnis des Hermann (?) Wedigh".
Kurt Löcher in "Von Bartholomäus Bruyn zu Jakob Seisenegger: Neue Ansätze in der deutschen Bildnismalerei ab 1525." Hans Holbein und der Wandel in der Kunst des frühen 16. Jahrhunderts [papers from the Johann David Passavant-Colloquium, Städelsches Kunstinstitut, 2003]. Ed. Bodo Brinkmann and Wolfgang Schmid. Turnhout, Belgium, 2005, p. 30, fig. 5.
Didier Martens. "Un témoin oublié de la Renaissance colonaise au Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lille: Le triptyque du 'Calvaire' par Barthel Bruyn le Jeune." Revue des musées de France: Revue du Louvre 55 (February 2005), pp. 56, 58 nn. 29–30, fig. 18, illustrates a triptych by Barthel Bruyn the Younger now in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lille, commissioned by Hermann Wedigh III as an older man in about 1560; reproduces a 19th-century drawing (by Peter Deckers; fig. 3) after the missing interior wings showing a large donor family including the figure of the father, Hermann, in the left foreground with his coat of arms on the prie-dieu at his right.
Jane Roberts. Holbein. Ed. Christopher Wright. rev. ed. London, 2005, pp. 26, 99, colorpl. 60.
Susan Foister. Holbein in England. Exh. cat., Tate Britain. London, 2006, pp. 64–66, 165, 176, no. 62, ill. (color), identifies the sitter as "Hermann von Wedigh" and notes that he "engages our attention with the central placing of his enlarged right eye, and arched eyebrow"; in relation to the panel in Berlin, notes that "the identity of this sitter has not been firmly established: the Hillebrandts were related to the von Wedighs, but no individual with London Hanseatic connections has been identified".
Maryan W. Ainsworth inGerman Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1350–1600. New Haven, 2013, pp. 133–37, 301–2, no. 30, ill. (color) and figs. 114 (color detail), 116–17 (infrared reflectogram details).
Kathryn Calley Galitz. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Masterpiece Paintings. New York, 2016, p. 276, no. 183, ill. pp. 2, 187, 276 (color, overall and detail).