Sunday, April 19, 2009

Question from Haven - Holbein's portrait of Amelia of Cleves

I was wondering what the picture was that Hans Holbein painted of Amelia of Cleves. Is there a picture of it?


Foose said...

No one has formally identified Amelia's portrait or miniature from any of the extant Holbein portraits or "attributed to Holbein" works. Perhaps it's just misidentified in some museum or private collection. However, there is some speculation on the Internet that one of Holbein's surviving sketches represents Amelia:

There are some similarities in the way this woman is painted and the way Anne of Cleves was depicted by Holbein. The clothing is appropriate for a German princess.

Actually, the woman's face in this portrait tends to remind me of contemporary written and verbal descriptions of Anne Boleyn. However, it seems unlikely this could be her.

Gareth Russell said...

The eyes of the three sisters - Anna, Amalia and Sybilla - are all very similar and the clothing is similar. However, Amalia does look very old in the portrait - perhaps it is the girls' mother, Maria?

I don't know if I think it looks like Anne Boleyn (I know Foose wasn't suggesting it actually was her). But, even so, I don't think the facial features are delicate enough for Boleyn's. Personally, I also think we sometimes get carried away with Francisco Sanuto's comment that Anne was not the handsomest woman in the world. After all, everyone else commented that she was either 'very beautiful' (Italian, 1528); 'quite beautiful' (Father Grynee, 1530) or pretty, but not as beautiful as some of Henry's previous mistresses (courtier, 1529.)

Bearded Lady said...

Considering that the portraits identified as Anne of Cleves and Sybilla show very stately costumes, I highly doubt this picture is Amelia. She looks like a commoner to me. It is true that Holbein has some sketches showing their sitters in less than regal costumes ( example: the questionable Anne Boleyn sketch) but the whole purpose of painting the two sisters was to show them off in all their finery. Although it is hard to compare a sketch to a painting, Holbein really put a lot of effort into the details on Anne of Cleves’ neckline. I don’t see a hint of any of these details here. Why would he make the younger sister look like the poor substitute? And didn’t Anne of Cleves have lighter hair? This sitter has dark hair.

Also, if the portrait was labeled at the time it was completed then wouldn’t it have been labeled “Anne of Kleves” vs. “Anne of Cleves?”

Foose said...

The sketch doesn't resemble Elizabeth at all, which I think discounts it as Anne.

However, if that is set aside, I was thinking it could be a portrait of Anne in 1534 or 1535, when she was married to Henry, had had a couple of pregnancies, and was perhaps losing some of her youthful charm. The face is somewhat gaunt, which might fit Anne at this period. The dress is fairly "godly," which might fit in with her interest in presenting herself as a patron of the Reformed movement.

Gareth Russell said...

Anne Boleyn never dressed down or in a "godly" fashion. She was very opposed to what we would consider the puritanesque elements of the Reformed Faith. Her prayer-books extolled sermons on the virtues of dressing magnificently and enjoying life, mirroring Christ and Our Lady's joie de vivre at the Wedding Feast of Cana. Moreover, none of Boleyn's wardrobe expenses ever show her having purchased anything other than brightly coloured, expensive fabrics and richly bejewelled headpieces.

Foose said...

Well, that disposes of my wistful little theory ... I was thinking more of the high collar on the woman's dress than any actual fabric. But I believe this style was more common to Germany than England at this period.