When Henry VIII, king of England,
seek a new wife, after having made decapitate Anne Boleyn and having
lost his third wife, Jane Seymour, in layers, sends Hans Holbein
through Europe portraiturer claiming them. In March 1538, it is
Christina of Denmark. In front of the table of this 16 year old widow,
the king falls in love. In June, it is Louise de Guise, then Marie and
Marguerite de Vendôme. In August, Anne of Lorraine (7 years) and
Renee de Guise. The following year, in 1539, it is Anne de
Clèves. Bingo: the painting allures the king, it marries it.
In front of the original, the king realizes that Holbein has too much
talent : reality is quite insipid. His minister Thomas Cromwell, who
had arranged the meeting, loses the head of it. With the clean
direction. Ever consumed, the marriage is cancelled seven months later,
Henry being taken of passion for Catherine Howard, his fifth wife. It
makes slice the neck in 1542… The painter escapes the same fate, but
dies of the plague the following year.
If there are exhibitions not to miss, that one devotes Tate Britain of
London to Hans Holbein (1497-1543) in fact part, like the preceding one
in Basle (Le Monde of April 14). This one showed the Swiss years of the
painter, that one the British years. The first English stay lasts of
1526 to 1528. The second, of 1532 with his death. In a dozen years,
Holbein introduces the Rebirth into the painting of the United Kingdom.
The exhibition shows it, with great reinforcement exceptional loans.
With a flat however: The Ambassadors, the large table which made
Holbein of the French Jean de Dinteville and George de Selve, misses. A
jump with the Gallery National helps to include/understand why: under
the shaving light, the joints of the fine wood boards of which is made
up the panel are clearly visible, and would undoubtedly not have
The queen was generous: its drawings, which seldom leave the reserves,
surround the draft for the portrait of the family of Thomas More. This
last, decapitated (a mania) in 1535, had introduced Holbein in Great
Britain via a mutual friend, Erasme. The auteurd' Utopia written in
1526 with that of the Praise of the madness: “Your painter, my dear
Erasme, is a marvellous artist, but I am afraid which it can not find
England a as profitable and fertile ground as it hoped for it…”
Because if Holbein accomplished the long voyage in the country where
the blocks redden, it is that the situation in Basle displeases to him.
The Reform is accompanied by drifts iconoclasts. Paintings of church
are burned. The painter, careful, seeks other guards. He tries a time
François I er, for to finally preferring his rival eternal him.
For which it paints a great battle, that of Thérouanne, British
victory against France. It is exposed to Greenwich in May 1527, at the
time of a meeting between Henry VIII and François I er.
The prediction of Thomas More will appear exact: if Holbein had a time
the favour of the king, the 30 books of annual wages that the Crown
pours to him are not enough. It obtains various privileges, of which
that to export beer, and especially to exert its art for private
customers. The merchants of Hanse, the guild which holds the monopoly
of the trade at sea North, pass under its brush.
It draws also parts of goldsmithery, guards of dagger, jewels,
mantelpieces: its meticulousness and its precision contrast then with
the freedom which it is given to treat the secondary elements in its
drawn portraits. Towards which one always returns: Holbein was
especially an extraordinary draughtsman.