Portrait of Erasmus of Rotterdam (1523) by Hans Holbein the Younger is an oil and tempera on wood painting that is considered one of the most famous portraits in history. The painting depicts renowned humanist scholar and theologian Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, who required several portraits to send abroad. Holbein painted several paintings of him as he moved to Basel in 1521, where Holbein lived and had his workshop.
The Portrait shows Erasmus in half-length three-quarter profile, hands just visible between the fur cuffs of his coat. This painting can be found at National Gallery, London or other museums such as Kunstmuseum Basel or private collections. The painting is believed to have sparked Holbein’s career and inspired more notable artworks like The Body of Dead Christ in the Tomb, A Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling (Anne Lovell?), Christina of Denmark, Duchess of Milan, and portraits of Henry VII and VIII.
The Portrait captures Erasmus’ personality through its genius portrayal using German Renaissance art techniques. To truly understand this masterpiece better it is essential to analyze it closer and appreciate the exceptional talent behind creating such breathtaking artwork.