National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Edward VI as a Child Hans Holbein the Younger (painter)
German, 1497/1498 - 1543
Edward VI as a Child, probably 1538
oil on panel
overall: 56.8 x 44 cm (22 3/8 x 17 5/16 in.) framed: 80 x 68.6 x 10.2 cm (31 1/2 x 27 x 4 in.)
Andrew W. Mellon Collection
1937.1.64
On View
From the Tour: German Painting and Sculpture in the Late 1400s and 1500s
Object 9 of 12

Conservation Notes

The painting comprises two boards with vertical grain. From the x-radiograph it appears that the panel may once have been split along the join line and reglued. The dendrochronological examination conducted by Peter Klein did not produce data that matched the existing master chronologies for Europe and thus yielded neither a date nor confirmation of an earlier examination made by John Fletcher.[1] The panel has been thinned and cradled, and strips of wood approximately 0.95 cm wide have been added to the sides and the top. There is no barbe, and the panel was not painted in an engaged frame. There is nothing to suggest the panel has been cut down. Rather, the fact that the ground is either very thin or nonexistent for a width of approximately 1 cm along the top and bottom edges and that there is a raised lip of ground along the right end of the bottom edge suggest that the panel was held in a clamp or on some sort of easel when the ground was applied. Over the smooth, thick, white ground there is a salmon-pink imprimatura of medium thickness. Examination with infrared reflectography discloses a fine, delicate underdrawing Iying over the imprimatura, probably done with a brush and also visible to the naked eye. There are slight changes in the eyelids, which in the underdrawing were somewhat higher, and in the hand holding the rattle, where the middle finger once was parallel to the index finger and both extended farther to the lower left.

Various techniques were used in this picture. The paint has been very precisely and smoothly applied; glazes and layering have been used in several areas. The paint layers extend to the edges of the panel on all sides. A thick, white layer underlies much of the green drapery, possibly to counter any effect of the pink imprimatura below. The fine, gold lines found in the brocade and decorative details appear to be shell gold brushed over a warm brown or yellow base. In the hat thick, light ocher-toned areas under the gold act as a bole or mordant to provide a warm color base for the gold. The gray-brown portions of the cap are silver leaf, which originally may have been covered by a red glaze.

Except for the hat, many or nearly all of the uppermost layers of the red paint are missing. The remaining reds have a cracked and crizzled appearance. Optical microscopy indicates that the pigment used for the background is smalt, which has discolored to gray and, as indicated by the edges under the frame rabbet, would originally have been closer to a brighter slate blue. Apart from the aforementioned damage, the painting is secure and in reasonably good condition. There is damage and a large abraded loss in the background at the left above the child's arm. There are tiny scattered losses in the left cheek and a thin series of old losses along the join line.


[1] See Peter Klein's examination report, 24 September 1987, in NGA curatorial files. John Fletcher examined the painting on 3-4 October 1979 and put forward a date of 1533/1545 for the earliest likely use of the panel (report, 7-8 November 1979, in NGA curatorial files).

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