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ID number:  BIRBI-55.13
Institution:  The Barber Institute of Fine Arts
Artist / Maker:  Holbein, Hans the younger (1497/8-1543)
Title / Object name:  Design for a Glass Painting
Object type:  Drawing
Place made:  Switzerland; Basel
Culture:  Swiss
Date made:  about 1520
Materials:  Pen and grey wash with traces of black chalk on paper
Measurements:  375 x 295 mm
Provenance:  Purchased at Sotheby's, 9 June 1955, lot 40, for £3,400
BIRBI-55.13.jpg

This intricate design for a glass painting is thoroughly characteristic of Holbein’s first years as a master in the guild at Basel. It was presumably made for the rooms of a newly appointed bishop or abbot, as symbolised by the crozier and mitre. The image of the Madonna and Child on the mitre may indicate that the patron’s cathedral or abbey was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The empty shield which is meant to include the patron’s coat of arms suggests that this design is unfinished. The drawing was once in the collection of Sir Peter Lely (1618 - 1680), Principal Painter to King Charles II.

Holbein executed several designs for stained-glass windows. Here, Holbein has translated the subtleties of Christian devotion to a monumental scale. Two statuesque angels unveil the instruments of a bishop: his cap or mitre, and crozier, the hooked staff which evokes the shepherd’s care of his flock. The crozier is decorated with a miniature image of the Virgin nursing the infant Christ. The design was most likely intended for a window installed in a church to mark the celebration of the new bishop. With natural light pouring through, the stained glass would have acted as a powerful symbol of Christ as the ‘Light of the World’ (from the Bible, John 8:12).

Inscriptions / Translations:  Inscribed l.c.: H Holbein [the letters H joined]. Collector's marks: Sir Peter Lely [Lugt 1753, twice]; Jonathan Richardson senior [Lugt 2184].

1 Related People

Holbein, Hans the younger
Swiss
1497/8
1543
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