Great Art : Hans Holbien

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Portrait of the Merchant Georg Gisze (1532) by Hans Holbein. In his usual way, Holbein combines the Italian Renaissance tradition of monumental form with the Northern European manner of detailed representation. Thus in addition to his masterful portrait of Gisze - marked by his exact reproduction of his facial colouring, the texture of his hair, and the pink robe with its intricate set of creases and light-catching sheen - the painting also contains a number of precisely created objects relating to the merchant and his way of life. He is shown, for instance, standing in his workroom, surrounded by the artifacts of his trade - the handwritten contracts, bills of lading or cargo manifests of the shipping business, as well as a pewter writing-stand with goose-quills, ink, sand, sealing-wax and a seal. Also on the table in front of him is a beautifully painted Venetian-glass vase, containing carnations, the latter being a medieval symbol of betrothal.