Cromwell’s Portrait

  • B. W. Beckingsale


Hans Holbein is one of those artists who almost persuades us that there is something in Thomas Carlyle’s assertion that a good portrait ‘is superior in real instruction to half a dozen written biographies’. From the best copy of Holbein’s lost portrait of Thomas Cromwell we get the sense that we could recognise Cromwell on sight as he was in his late forties in 1534.1 But the portrait is more than a likeness. Holbein presents the details which make the observer cast Cromwell not only as a character but also as an actor in a particular role. The artist makes a psychological and a social estimate of his sitter.


Street Gang Social Estimate Real Instruction Wide Vocabulary Late Forty 
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    Roy Strong, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits (HMSO 1969), I, 114.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    John Foxe, Acts and Monuments (1870), ed. J. Pratt, V, 395.Google Scholar
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    R.B. Merriman, Life and Letters of Thomas Cromwell (Oxford 1902), I, 373.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© B.W. Beckingsale 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. W. Beckingsale

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