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Oil painting - Hans of Antwerp
  • Hans of Antwerp
    Holbein, Hans II the younger, born 1497 - died 1543
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Hans of Antwerp

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    London, England (probably, painted)

  • Date:

    ca. 1532 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Holbein, Hans II the younger, born 1497 - died 1543 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    oil on panel

  • Credit Line:

    Salting Bequest

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, room 58b, case 3

Object Type
This is one of the portraits that the German artist Hans Holbein painted of German merchants when he was resident in London in the years 1526-1528 and 1532-1543. The merchants resided in the Steelyard, which adjoined Dowgate. It was the place where the King's steelyard or beam was set up, for weighing goods imported into London.

Subjects Depicted
There is another portrait of the same man by Holbein in the Royal Collection. Some believe that the subject is the goldsmith Hans von Antwerpen (or Hans or John of Antwerp, as he was variously known in England). The rich costume suggests, however, that the sitter was a wealthy merchant, a member of the Hanse or league of German merchants. The Steelyard, or German House, was surrounded by a wall, which contained the merchants' warehouses, weigh house, church, offices and dwellings, which they had occupied since 1320. These merchants, originally from Cologne, were free from all London tolls and were permitted to trade at fairs throughout England. English merchants, jealous of their success, tried for many years to persuade the Monarch to revoke the privileges of these 'Strangers'. They were successful only in 1597, in the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603). The Steelyard was closed in 1598.

Physical description

Oil painting

Place of Origin

London, England (probably, painted)


ca. 1532 (made)


Holbein, Hans II the younger, born 1497 - died 1543 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

oil on panel


Height: 13.1 cm unframed, Depth: 0.8 cm unframed, Height: 13.6 cm framed

Object history note

Salting Bequest, 1910
By Hans Holbein (born in Augsburg, Germany, 1497, died in London, 1543), probably painted in London

Descriptive line

Hans von Antwerpen

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Foister, Susan, with contributions by Tim Batchelor Holbein in England Tate Publishing, 2006. ISBN: 1 85437 645 4.
Exhibition catalogue
Foister, Susan, with contributions by Tim Batchelor. exh.cat. Holbein in England. London: Tate Publishing, 2006, p. 116, cat.no 127
The following is the full text of the entry:

" Workshop of Hans Holbein the Younger
127 An Unidentified Man c.1535-40?
Oil on oak Diameter 13 cm
Inscribed: AETATIS SVAE 35
Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The subject of this small painting has been identified as the goldsmith Hans of Antwerp (see no. 91) by comparison with the portrait of a similar bearded man in The Royal Collection, although the inscription (now partly illegible) and other details of that portrait suggest the subject is probably a Hanseatic merchant; it is conceivable he was both merchant and goldsmith.

The frontal format and deep-blue-green background resemble Holbein’s portraits of the 1530s, especially those of Hanseatic merchants. The original turned frame has been cut off. Infrared reflectography shows a number of adjustments to the underdrawing beneath the painted surface: for example the right eye was drawn lower (Appendix, fig. iv, p. 155). The end of the nose is outlined in Holbein's characteristic manner. However, examination with the microscope reveals a flatter, more descriptive style of painting than Holbein's, suggesting the possibility that the artist was a workshop assistant from the Low Countries.

Provenance: Princess Matilde; George Petit; George Salting; Salting Bequest 1910
Literature: Rowlands 1985 (36b)
Reference: Millar 1963 (29)"

Exhibition History

Holbein in England (Tate Gallery 28/09/2006-07/01/2007)

Labels and date

British Galleries:
The man in this portrait was probably a German merchant living in London. Hans Holbein, who was also a 'stranger', painted several foreign merchants and artisans during his two periods working in England (1526-1528 and 1532-1543) as well as members of the court. He also designed goldsmiths' work and the title page to the first complete English translation of the Bible. [27/03/2003]


Oil paint; Panel


Oil painting



Collection code


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