Hans Holbein was born in the year 1497, in Augsburg, he was called “the Younger” to differentiate himself from his father, also a painter, Hans Holbein, the Elder, from the Late Gothic school. As a young artist, he worked mainly in Basel, Switzerland, designing stained glass windows, painting murals and religious works, and printing books. He occasionally painted portraits, some of them made his international mark, those of the humanist Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam.
After the Reformation, Holbein worked for reformist clients as well as traditional religious patrons. Holbein had his own aesthetic, and his Late Gothic style was immensely enriched by artistic trends in France, Italy and the Netherlands, and influenced by Renaissance humanist ideas.
Through his time in Basel, Holbein was very prolific, he took many commissions, like the city’s mayor and his wife, designs for stained glass. He joined the painter’s guild and became a Basel citizen. The period was also a revolution in book design, Holbein was a printmaker as well as a painter, his woodcuts included the Dance of Death series, the title page of Martin Luther’s bible and the Icones (illustrations of The Old Testament).
In 1523 he painted his first portrait of Erasmus of Rotterdam, a great Renaissance Scholar, he required high likeness for him to send to his family, friends, and admirers throughout Europe.; this made Holbein an international artist.
Holbein left Basel in 1526 to seek work in England, promptly becoming under the patronage of Sir Thomas More, thanks to Erasmus’ recommendation. Soon, More would find several commissions to Holbein. In 1527, the artist created one of his most famous portraits, Portrait of Sir Thomas More. The artist also executed portraits of other distinguished figures, such as Archbishop of Canterbury William Warham and Nicholas Kratzer, a Bavarian mathematician and astronomer, as well as some of the King’s court members.
During the earliest period of his return to England, Holbeins’ patrons were primarily merchants, whilst also executing portraits of landowners, courtiers, and visitors. Probably his most famous painting from this period is The Ambassadors.
Although there is no portrait of Anna Boleyn precisely attributed to Holbein, probably because her memory was purged following her execution in 1536, certainly, he worked directly for her. Also, in 1536, the artist was appointed as King’s Painter. Despite such a position, Holbein’s income declined due to a lack of patrons.
Hals Holbein, the Younger, died between October and November 1543.