“Portrait of Erasma of Rotterdam,” Hans Golbein – overview of the painting

“Portrait of Erasma of Rotterdam,” Hans Golbein – overview of the painting
“Portrait of Erasma of Rotterdam,” Hans Golbein - overview of the painting - 1

  • Posted by Hans Golbein the Younger
  • Museum: Art Museum, Basel
  • Year: 1523

Overview of the painting :

Portrait of Erasma Rotterdam – Hans Golbein. 1523. Wood panel paper, 36.8 x 30.5 cm.

   Over his life, the artist created several portraits of the great scientist, nicknamed the “prince of humanists.”. He created the first portrait of Erasma of Rotterdam at the age of 25. This image is made in a very restrained manner, which a modern person would designate as a minimalist. The thinker is depicted in profile, against the background of a greenish-olive wall without any details. He is in a dark headgear characteristic of his era, in a free grayish brown robe with a magnificent volumetric black collar. Thanks to the restrained color scheme and the minimum number of details, all the attention of the audience is focused on the Erasmus profile and on its hands, decorated with several precious rings. He is busy – writes one of his philosophical treatises, and seems deeply immersed in his thoughts.

   In the same year, the master writes another portrait of Rotterdam, but completely different in style and manner of the image. It does not have dryness and stiffness of the first picture. It is a richly decorated canvas in deep, saturated colors. The thinker himself is depicted in a pose traditional for portraits – in a turn of three quarters. The background is a future-leasing wall decorated with velvety green curtain, a wooden carved shelf with several books in valuable bindings and with a glass transparent vessel on top.

   On the other hand, a richly decorated column is a contrast to the dark robe of Erasma. It has a relief covering not only the capitel, but also all surfaces.

   The portrait sits with a calm face and a look directed into the distance, laying his hands on the book – one of his works. The master intends to distinguish his face and hands with lighter, luminous colors, so the attention of the audience focuses on the personality of the philosopher.

   Erasmus of Rotterdam is dressed in rich, loose clothes, lushly decorated with light, reddish fur. Like most of the paintings of the Younger Holbein, this one also differs in carefully written details. The fur is so depicted completely that it seems you can feel its softness and fluffiness. The same applies to all the details of the canvas – they are meticulously, accurately and clearly written. As a result, the whole small picture becomes a real masterpiece of painting. Considered a brilliant draftsman during his lifetime, Golbane transferred his unique skills to paintings. It was portraits that made him famous for many centuries.