Arts & Culture

A Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling (Anne Lovell?)

Hans Holbein the Youngerabout 1526-8

The National Gallery, London
The National Gallery, London

Probably painted during Holbein's first visit to England in 1526–8, it has been suggested, very plausibly, that the sitter is Anne Lovell. The starling in the background and the pet squirrel on a chain may have been intended to allude to her name: the Lovell family showed squirrels on their coat of arms and owned a house at East Harling in Norfolk. It is conceivable that the portrait was once part of a pair of husband and wife.

Squirrels were popular pets in England as early as the 14th century. In other portraits of women and children by Holbein pet animals such as a monkey and a marmoset are included; in portraits of men he depicts the falcons used in hunting.

The sitter in the National Gallery painting is unlikely to have posed with either the squirrel or the starling: Holbein probably made separate studies of them in drawings.

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Details

  • Title: A Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling (Anne Lovell?)
  • Creator: Hans Holbein the Younger
  • Date Created: about 1526-8
  • School: German
  • Physical Dimensions: w388 x h560 cm
  • More Info: More Artist Information
  • Inventory number: NG6540
  • Artist Biography: Holbein was one of the most accomplished portraitists of the 16th century. He spent two periods of his life in England (1526–8 and 1532–43), portraying the nobility of the Tudor court. Holbein's famous portrait of Henry VIII (London, National Portrait Gallery) dates from the second of these periods. 'The Ambassadors', also from this period, depicts two visitors to the court of Henry VIII. 'Christina of Denmark' is a portrait of a potential wife for the king. Holbein was born in Augsburg in southern Germany in the winter of 1497–8. He was taught by his father, Hans Holbein the Elder. He became a member of the Basel artists' guild in 1519. He travelled a great deal, and is recorded in Lucerne, northern Italy and France. In these years he produced woodcuts and fresco designs as well as panel paintings. With the spread of the Reformation in Northern Europe the demand for religious images declined and artists sought alternative work. Holbein first travelled to England in 1526 with a recommendation to Thomas More from the scholar Erasmus. In 1532 he settled in England, dying of the plague in London in 1543. Holbein was a highly versatile and technically accomplished artist who worked in different media. He also designed jewellery and metalwork.
  • Acquisition Credit: Bought with contributions from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and The Art Fund and Mr J. Paul Getty Jnr (through the American Friends of the National Gallery, London), 1992
  • Type: Painting
  • External Link: The National Gallery, London
  • Medium: Oil on oak

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