After the Reformation had brought social and political upheaval to Germany, creating an unfavorable climate for artists, Holbein moved to England in 1526. He first painted for Sir Thomas More's circle of high servants of the crown and then became painter to the King himself, Henry VIII. As court painter Holbein produced portraits, festival sets and other decorations intended to exalt the King and the Tudor dynasty, and also designs for jewelry and metalwork.
In his portraits Holbein endowed his sitters with a powerful physical presence which was increasingly held in check by the psychological reserve and elegance of surface appropriate to a court setting. This portrait of Henry VIII's only legitimate son and much desired male heir exemplifies these qualities. Edward was born on 12 October 1537 to Henry's third wife, Jane Seymour, and this portrait appears to be the one given to the King on the New Year of 1539. The form of the portrait and the long Latin verse provided by the poet Richard Morison flatter the royal father and emphasize the succession.
Holbein depicted the baby prince as erect and self-possessed, one hand holding a scepter and the other open in a gesture of blessing. His frontal pose before a parapet is a type reserved for royalty or for images of holy figures.
More information on this painting can be found in the Gallery publication German Paintings of the Fifteenth through Seventeenth Centuries, which is available as a free PDF https://www.nga.gov/content/dam/ngaweb/research/publications/pdfs/german-painting-fifteenth-through-seventeenth-centuries.pdf
across bottom: PARVVLE PATRISSA, PATRIÆ VIRTVTIS ET HÆRES / ESTO, NIHIL MAIVS MAXIMVS ORBIS HABET. / GNATVM VIX POSSVNT COELVM ET NATVRA DEDISSE, / HVIVS QVEM PATRIS, VICTVS HONORET HONOS. / ÆQVATO TANTVM, TANTI TV FACTA PARENTIS, / VOTA HOMINVM, VIX QVO PROGREDIANTVR, HABENT / VINCITO, VICISTI. QVOT REGES PRISCVS ADORAT / ORBIS, NEC TE QVI VINCERE POSSIT, ERIT. Ricard: Morysini. Car: (Little one, emulate thy father and be the heir of his virtue; the world contains nothing greater. Heaven and earth could scarcely produce a son whose glory would surpass that of such a father. Do thou but equal the deeds of thy parent and men can ask no more. Shouldst thou surpass him, thou hast outstript all kings the world has revered in ages past.)
Gift of the artist on 1 January 1539 to Henry VIII, King of England [1509-1547]. Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel and Surrey [1585-1646], Arundel Castle, Sussex, and Arundel House, London, by 1639, and Amsterdam, from 1643; by inheritance to his wife, Alathea Howard [d. 1654], Antwerp and Amsterdam. Probably William III, King of England and Stadholder-King of the Netherlands [1650-1702], Het Loo, Apeldoorn, possibly by c. 1700. Ernest Augustus I, Duke of Cumberland and King of Hanover [1771-1851], Royal Castle, Georgengarten, Hanover, by 1844; by descent to his son, George V, King of Hanover [1819-1878]; by descent to his son, Ernest Augustus II, Duke of Cumberland and Crown Prince of Hanover [1845-1923]; (P. & D. Colnaghi & Co., London), by 1925; (M. Knoedler & Co., London and New York), 1925; purchased July 1925 by Andrew W. Mellon, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.; deeded 30 March 1932 to The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh; gift 1937 to NGA.
 New Year's Gift Roll in the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, Ms. Z. d. 11, dated "First daie of January anno xxx" of the reign of Henry VIII, "By hanse holbyne a table of the pictour of the prince grace." A photocopy is in NGA curatorial files. Regnal year 30 of the reign of Henry VIII ran from 22 April 1538 to 21 April 1539, hence the manuscript dates to 1539; see Christopher R. Cheney, Handbook of Dates for Students of English History, London, 1978: 24.
 The Earl of Arundel's portrait of Edward VI was copied in miniature by Peter Oliver; the miniature was catalogued by Abraham van der Doort in 1639 as part of the collection of Charles I, King of England, and added to the description are the words, "Coppied by Peter Olliver after Hanc Holbin whereof my Lord of Arrundel-hath ye Principall", see Oliver Millar, "Abraham van der Doort's Catalogue of the Collections of Charles I," Walpole Society 37 (1958-1960): 108, no. 22. The Earl of Arundel left England in 1641 and his collection was in Amsterdam in 1643; see Mary L. Cox, "Notes on the Collections formed by Thomas Howard," The Burlington Magazine 19 (1911): 282. Two other images identify what is evidently the Gallery's painting with the Arundel collection, the preparatory drawing and etching by Wenceslaus Hollar; the latter is inscribed: H Holbein pinxit. Wenceslaus Hollar fecit. ex Collectione Arundeliana. An. 1650. Horace Walpole added the handwritten emendation, "There is a print from this by Hollar." to the printed version of van der Doort's catalogue; George Vertue, A Catalogue and Description of King Charles the First's Capital Collection, London, 1757: 39-40, no. 22.
 Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, died in Padua in 1646, and his will of 3 September 1640, left his possessions to his wife; see Charles Howard, Historical Anecdotes of Some of the Howard Family, London, 1817: 93-96. Alathea Howard died in Amsterdam in 1654; an inventory in the Rijksarchief, Utrecht, of the Arundel collection made in Amersfoort in 1655 lists two portraits of Edward VI by Holbein; see F. H. C. Weijtens, De Arundel-Collectie. Commencement de la fin Amersfoort 1655, Utrecht, 1971: 30, no. 19, "Eduwart de seste, Holben", and 31, no. 49, "Eduwardus den sesten, Holben." These correspond to an inventory in Italian in the Public Record Office, London (Cox, 1911, as per note 2 above, 323). It is assumed that the painting copied by Oliver and Hollar corresponds to one of the works listed. It is not clear what happened next to the collection. At the time of Alathea Howard's death, her only surviving son, William Viscount Stafford [d. 1680], claimed that a nuncupative will entitled him to her personal possessions including the art collection, but this was disputed by his nephew, Henry, who succeeded his father, Henry Frederick [d. 1652], as Earl of Arundel and Surrey; see Mary F. S. Hervey, The Life, Correspondence, & Collections of Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, Cambridge, 1921: 473, and Weijtens, De Arundel-Collectie, 1971: 18-24. Weijtens 1971, pl. 14, published a document of 11 October 1662 signed by the painter Herman Saftleven indicating that Lord Stafford's collection was probably sold in Utrecht in that year.
 S.W.A. Drossaers and Th. H. Lunsingh Scheurleer, Inventarissen van de inboedels in de verblijven an de Oranjes en daarmede gelijk te stellen stukken 1567-1795, 3 vols., The Hague, 1974-1976; Inventaris van de inboedel van het Huis Het Loo, het Oude Loo en Het Huis Merwell, 1713, 1:679, no. 886: "Een koning Eduard van denselven [i.e. Holbein] met een descriptie van Richard Morosini;" and Schilderijen die volgens het zeggen van den kunstbewaerder Du Val door Hare Majt.de coninginne van Groot-Brittanniën zijn gereclameert geworden als tot de croon behorende, 1713: 700, no. 10: "Koning Eduart van dito [i.e. Holbein]," in margin, "Staet niet aengeteekent." As observed by Broos in Beatrijs Brenninkmeyer-de Rooij, et al., Paintings from England. William III and the Royal Collections, exh. cat. Koninklijk Kabinet van Schilderijen "Mauritshuis," The Hague, 1988: 117, Du Val's marginal notation of "Not listed" (Staet niet aengeteekent) may be taken as an indication that the portrait was not on the list of works requested for return to the English Royal collection because it was acquired from a private collection, that of Arundel. Broos, 118, suggested, without verification, that the portrait was in Het Loo by about 1700 and that it hung next to a portrait of Henry VIII by Holbein as indicated in the 1713 inventory, Drossaers and Lunsingh Scheurleer 1974, no. 885: "Een Hendrick de Achtste van Holbeen". The portrait was in Het Loo in 1711, for in that year it was described by Zacharias Conrad von Uffenbach; see Zacharias Conrad von Uffenbach, Merkwürdige Reisen durch Niedersachsen Holland und Engelland, 3 vols., Ulm, 1753-1754: 2:376-377, who transcribed the inscription at the bottom of the painting, but believed that it represented Henry VIII as a child.
 It is not known exactly when and by what means the painting entered the Royal Collection. Broos, in Brenninkmeyer-de Rooij et al., 1988, 117-118, suggested that the portrait came to Germany from Het Loo as a result of the marriage in 1734 of William IV, King of the Netherlands, to Anna of Hanover, Duchess of Braunschweig-Lüneberg; this is unverified but intriguing. No portrait of Edward VI by Holbein appears in the inventories of 1709, 1754, 1781, and 1803; letter of 16 December 1977 to John Hand from Hans Georg Gmelin, in NGA curatorial files. The earliest published mention of the picture is Justus Molthan, Verzeichniss der Bildhauerwerke und Gemälde welche sich in den königlich hannoverschen Schlössern und Gebäuden befinden, Hanover, 1844: 65, no. 12, and conceivably it thus could have entered the collection sometime after 1803 and before 1844.
 Nancy C. Little, M. Knoedler & Co., letter of 2 March 1988 to NGA curator John Hand, in NGA curatorial files, stating that the painting came to Knoedler's from Colnaghi in 1925, and was Knoedler stock number 16123. See also M. Knoedler & Co. Records, accession number 2012.M.54, Research Library, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles: Painting Stock Book 7, 1921 January - 1927 December, p. 89; Sales Book 12, 1921 January - 1926 December, p. 272; copies in NGA curatorial files.
A rather sensational, but unverified, account of how the painting passed from the Duke of Cumberland's collection to Colnaghi's to a representative of Knoedler's was given by A. Martin de Wilde in Betty Beale, "Will of Billionaire Deprives U.S. of Art," Buffalo Evening News, 6 June 1960, clipping in NGA curatorial files. See also Das Niedersächsische Landmuseum Hannover: 150 Jahre Museum in Hannover, 100 Jahre Gebäude am Maschpark, Hannover, 2002: 34-35.
On loan to the Royal-Welfen Museum, Hanover, by 1863 until the 1870s.
Royal Collection housed at Landschaftstrasse 3, Hanover, by 1876.
Fidei-Kommiss Galerie des Gesamthaus Braunschweig-Lüneberg, Provinzial Musuem, Hanover, 1891-1924.
A Loan Exhibition of Twelve Masterpieces of Painting, M. Knoedler & Co., New York, 1928, no. 6.
Dynasties: Painting in Tudor and Jacobean England 1530-1630, Tate Gallery, London, 1995-1996, no. 6, repro. and cover.
Hans Holbein, Edward VI. als Kind. Ein Wiedersehen, Niedersächsisches Landesmuseum Hannover, 2000, no. 1, repro.
Hans Holbein the Younger 1497/98-1543: Portraitist of the Renaissance, Koninklijk Kabinet van Schilderijen Mauritshuis, The Hague, 2003, no. 33, repro.
Holbein in England, Tate Britain, London, 2006-2007, no. 108, repro.
Les Tudors, Musée du Luxembourg, Paris, 2015, no. 42, fig. 58.
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. 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.
 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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