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Title:William Roper (1493/94–1578)
Artist:Hans Holbein the Younger (German, Augsburg 1497/98–1543 London)
Medium:Vellum laid on card
Dimensions:Diameter 1 3/4 in. (45 mm)
Credit Line:Rogers Fund, 1950
William Roper, a Kentish landowner, lawyer, and four-time member of Parliament, was a member of Sir Thomas More's household for more than sixteen years and married his eldest daughter, Margaret, in 1521. This miniature was presumably painted at the same time as that of his wife (50.69.2) and can therefore be dated to 1535–36, in which case the date of the sitter's birth, formerly recorded as between 1493 and 1498, could be more precisely given as about 1493–94. There is no other known portrait of Roper. His Lyfe of Sir Thomas Moore, written about 1557 and widely circulated in manuscript, gives a personal and sympathetic view of his father-in-law and the ordered calm of More's domestic life.
[2015; adapted from Reynolds and Baetjer 1996]
Although there are three or four minute areas of abrasion and slight crazing in the shirt front, the miniature is in general in very good condition.
[2015; adapted from Reynolds and Baetjer 1996]
Inscription: Inscribed (horizontally, in gold): AoN ÆTATIS SVÆ · XLIIo ·
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 The Met]
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.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "In Miniature," August 29–December 28, 2014, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Tudors: Art and Majesty in Renaissance England," October 10, 2022–January 8, 2023, no. 87.
Cleveland Museum of Art. "The Tudors: Art and Majesty in Renaissance England," February 26–May 14, 2023, no. 87.
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.
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".
Daphne Foskett. Collecting Miniatures. Woodbridge, England, 1979, p. 47, as recently added to the list of "possibly authentic" miniatures by Holbein.
Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 263, 266, fig. 476 (color, with 50.69.2).
Roy Strong inThe English Miniature. Exh. cat., Yale Center for British Art, Yale University. New Haven, 1981, p. 36, fig. 51.
Roy Strong inArtists 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 inGothic: Art for England, 1400–1547. Ed. Richard Marks and Paul Williamson. 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).
Elania Pieragostini inRenaissance Watercolours: From Dürer to Van Dyck. Exh. cat., Victoria and Albert Museum. London, 2020, p. 162, fig. 44 (color).
Mark Evans. Renaissance Watercolours: From Dürer to Van Dyck. Exh. cat., Victoria and Albert Museum. London, 2020, pp. 162, 239 n. 98.
Adam Eaker inThe Tudors: Art and Majesty in Renaissance England. Ed. Elizabeth Cleland and Adam Eaker. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2022, pp. 192, 206, 210, 221–23, no. 87, ill. (color).
This is an early-twentieth-century frame in the Renaissance style. A circular card, loosely inserted in the frame at the reverse of the miniature, is inscribed in pencil Ernest Adolph Malschinger / 219 Gaisford St / Kentish Town / NW / London / June 3rd 1907 (presumably the name and address of the jeweler who made this frame and that of its pendant when both miniatures were owned by Alfred de Rothschild).
Victoria Button, senior paper conservator at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, discusses a selection of European miniature portraits in The Met collection that she worked with during a one-month exchange program between the two institutions this spring.
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