(Born Augsburg, probably 1497; died London, Oct./Nov. 1543). German painter and designer, chiefly celebrated as one of the greatest of all portraitists. He trained in Augsburg with his father, Hans Holbein the Elder (c.1465–1524), one of the leading artists of the day there; his brother, Ambrosius (c.1494–?c.1519), was also a painter. By 1515 the brothers had moved to Basle. There Hans quickly found employment as a designer for printers, and in 1516 he painted portraits of Jacob Meyer, mayor of the city, and his wife (Kunstsmuseum, Basle). From 1517 to 1519 he worked in Lucerne, assisting his father on the decoration of a house for the city's chief magistrate (only a fragment of the work survives, in the Lucerne museum). It is possible that during this time Holbein crossed the Alps to Lombardy, for on his return to Basle, where he was to remain until 1526, his work had more dignity and authority and his modelling had become softer. The harrowing Christ in the Tomb (1521 or 1522, Kunstmuseum, Basle), for example, has a power of expression combined with a mastery of chiaroscuro that almost rivals Leonardo.

Text source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)

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