Role playing in Hans Holbein's The Family of Sir Thomas More

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Abstract

Holbein's portrait, The Family of Sir Thomas More, has been described as 'a pioneering work – the first conversation piece ever created in German art'. Others refer to the portrait's naturalism as providing 'a fairly direct mirror of everyday life in the More household'. On one level these assessments are undoubtedly true; Thomas More and his family are gathered together at home, and, if we take into account the annotations to the drawing, surrounded by objects which reflect the interests of the family members: books, musical instruments and a pet monkey. Alternatively, David Smith in his 2005 article 'Portrait and Counter-Portrait in Holbein's The Family of Sir Thomas More,' proposed that the drawing (and the painting for which it was a preliminary sketch), should be understood not only as a naturalistic family portrait, but also as an exploration of irony and humour, embedded within humanist thinking.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-71
Number of pages10
JournalBritish Art Journal
Volume19
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jun 2018

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