Category Archives: European History.

Hans Holbein the Younger (German, 1497-1543): Humanist Portraits in England, 1526 to 1528.

Featured Image: Self-Portrait, Hans Holbein the Younger, 1542/3, black and colored chalks, 23 x 18 cm, Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi. This is the only secure self portrait in the Holbein oeuvre.

Self portrait Hans Holbein
Self-portrait Hans Holbein The Younger, Oil on paper, mounted on oak, 16.5 x 14 cm, inscribed on the left and right of the head: H H; on the left above the shoulder: AN [N] O. 1554 / ETATIS SVE/45, Kunstmuseum Basel, donated by Prof. J.J. Bachofen-Burckhardt Foundation in 2015. While Lüdin was probably working from a graphic reproduction, the unknown painter of this picture, if not Holbein’s own drawing, surely had one of the copies made shortly after his death in the narrow workshop environment. This is one more Hans Holbein self-portrait based on the secure Florentine drawing.

Self portrait Holbein
Self-Portrait Hans Holbein, copy by Johannes Lüdin, c. 1647-1667, Oil on canvas, 61.5 x 47.5 cm, Kunstmuseum Basel. In fall 1526 twenty-nine-year-old Hans Holbein crossed the channel from Antwerp to England where the German immigrant’s first concerns were to find work, useful friends, and a place to stay. While Lüdin’s painting was given as a gift to a major art collector in Basel and probably based on a graphic model whose type proliferated after 1600, it is the drawing in the Uffizi (see Featured Image) that remains the only secure self-portrait image according to current Holbein scholarship.

Introduction by John P. Walsh

Hans Holbein the Younger was born in Augsburg, Germany, in 1497. After 1515, he lived and trained in Basel, Switzerland. Over two visits, one starting in 1526 and another in 1532, Holbein spent a total of thirteen years in Henry VIII’s England until the artist’s death in 1543. The focus for this post is Holbein’s first visit to England which lasted two years – specifically, from around September 1526 to mid-August 1528. His second, more permanent, visit to England started in 1532 (Holbein likely arrived in the spring) and lasting to his death, almost certainly from plague, in late 1543. It was during that second, longer visit in England that Holbein became the most important court artist in the time of Henry VIII. His first visit is characterized by the activity of a young immigrant German artist – Holbein was about 29 years in 1526 – getting established in a foreign land and developing a mastery of his craft.

Holbein arrived in England in late 1526 with a letter of introduction from Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) addressed to Sir Thomas More (1478-1535). This was not the first time Erasmus wrote to More asking him to temporarily lodge a friend.1 More would be appointed Lord Chancellor in 1529, but in 1526 Sir Thomas was the Speaker of the House of Commons and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. By 1526, Erasmus and More had been friends for more than a quarter century. They met during Erasmus’s first high-spirited stay in England in summer 1499. In that year, Erasmus was 33 years old and More twelve years his junior. Other major protagonists in this story – namely, Hans Holbein the Younger and the future King Henry VIII – were just children in 1499.2 While Erasmus began writing seriously on theological topics during his first English stay he also reveled in the gentle and happy personality of More. Part of More’s reception to Holbein in 1526 by way of Erasmus’s request may go back to the two old friends’ first meeting in England in 1499. After Erasmus had been encouraged by More to bring his money into England which More assured the relatively poor scholar would be safe, most of it was confiscated by English customs at Erasmus’ departure. This unpleasant shock not only left Erasmus with keen anger towards England for months afterwards—he never, however, blamed More (and one other English friend) for the misinformation—but left him lacking for money in Paris and elsewhere for several years thereafter.3 Similar to Holbein’s effort in 1526, Erasmus returned to England in 1505 to improve his fortunes by staying with his new friends, including Thomas More, and working to establish a network of influential English contacts. Erasmus emigrated in large part to access various English scholars as well as to counteract friends in the Netherlands who were mostly ignoring his work. It was by way of a new English contact that Erasmus in June 1506 ventured to Italy where he stayed for three years.4 Back in England on his third visit in 1509, Erasmus wrote his Praise of Folly, probably his most enduringly famous work, while living in the house of Thomas More. But writing and lecturing (at Cambridge) brought Erasmus little profit.5 It was only when the Archbishop of Canterbury, another English friend, gave him a stipend in 1512 that Erasmus was relieved of practical destitution. But the favored scholar would remain chronically in need of money and wrote more books to help fill the need. A scholar’s life in cold Britain, however, following three years in Italy’s southern climes, proved tiresome for Erasmus. He found his many months of writing and teaching at Cambridge to be like “a snail’s life, staying at home and plodding.”6 Erasmus was lonely; the plague was frequently about; and, for whatever his labors, he was making literally no money. Further, a state of war between England and France commenced in June 1513 which alarmed and depressed Erasmus, prompting him to publish his first anti-war writings and resolved to leave the island as soon as he could. He sailed for Antwerp in the summer of 1514.7

In 1526 when Erasmus wrote to More asking him to welcome German artist Han Holbein the Younger, both old friends had achieved literary fame in Europe. Thomas More’s Utopia appeared in Latin in 1516, edited by Erasmus and published in Louvain. During the first years of the Reformation, Erasmus remained More’s link to the Continent as they continued their amiable correspondence following Erasmus’ settling in Basel, Switzerland, in 1521. That city would be Erasmus’s dwelling place for the next eight years. Erasmus relied on More’s friendship in the 1520’s as the disputes of the Reformation intensified.8 In 1523 when Hans Holbein the Younger painted two portraits of Erasmus, the young German artist and the older Dutch humanist had been acquainted for some years. Before Holbein joined the workshop of Hans Herbst (c. 1470-1552) in 1516 or had been taken into the Basel painters’ guild in 1519, the teenage Holbein provided a pen and ink drawing for the Basel edition of Erasmus’s Praise of Folly in 1515 which apparently pleased the humanist. From 1519 to 1526 before his first visit to England, Holbein, now in his 20’s, was a whirlwind of artistic activity in Basel. His expressive drawings and paintings were a leading feature, but he demonstrated talent and skill in the many topical arts of his time, including printmaking, metal engraving, frescoes, and altarpieces.9

By 1523 Holbein desired to focus his talent on portrait painting.10 Basel’s most famous resident of Basel was certainly Erasmus. Before his relocation to the Swiss city, the writer and theologian had been famously embroiled in controversies swirling around German reformer Martin Luther (1482-1546). Erasmus came to Basel from Louvain to escape these difficulties and live in relative tranquility.11 In 1523 in Basel Holbein painted three portraits of Erasmus of Rotterdam. One exists today in Basel (in the Öffentliche Kunstsammlung), in Paris (Louvre) and in London (on loan from the Longford Castle collection to the National Gallery). The Reformation was, for the foreseeable future, taking its toll in terms of the visual and plastic arts. Erasmus described to More the state of the arts on the Continent, citing Basel in particular: “Here the arts freeze.”12

Historian David Starkey has called Holbein’s three-quarter profile portrait of Erasmus which was sent to the Archbishop of Canterbury William Warham (c.1450-1532) as a gift in 1524 as “the most important portrait in England”13 Starkey claims the painting is the beginning of portraiture itself when so-called “realism” was introduced into art. By way of Erasmus’s portrait to Warham, Thomas More learned of Holbein’s artwork up to two years prior to the young artist’s arrival in England. It is probable that like Erasmus before him, Holbein lodged in More’s house during his first English visit. Such accommodation provided practical hospitality to a friend’s friend on many levels including the fact that immigrant artists in England were disallowed from dwelling  within the city gates of London (More’s house was in nearby Chelsea). Further, More, as a rising political figure in England, became Holbein’s first patron and in that way could secure Holbein’s modern art portraiture for himself. Indeed, the major work of Holbein’s first stay in England between 1526 and 1528 is the portrait of the household of Thomas More as well as the famous portrait of Sir Thomas painted around the same time. In this first two-year period in England Holbein also set to work on a variety of artistic projects, but the portraits highlighted the stay.

Like his famed classicist sponsor Erasmus before him, Holbein came to England to improve his fortunes as an artist. Holbein had visited France in 1524 with the hope for a royal commission but was ignored.14 While English guild artists required Holbein’s exclusion from London proper, the time restriction on his stay was owed to the city of Basel. At the cost of losing his citizenship, Holbein was allowed no more than two-year’s absence from the Swiss city. On August 29, 1528, Holbein returned to Basel.15 This marked the end of Holbein’s first visit to England, but not before he had developed many new influential contacts and established his mastery of craft within the orbit of one of Europe’s most dynamic royal courts. Little more than three years later, in spring 1532, with his old friend Thomas More in the last throes of service as Lord Chancellor (More would almost immediately resign that year as dangerous political storms grew), Holbein returned to England. The Continent’s political and religious revolution was creeping across the channel for England’s own idiosyncratic reasons such that the English world Holbein visited in the 1520’s was rapidly declining. A revolutionary zeal was emerging, especially under Thomas Cromwell between 1535 and 1539, which would inspire new challenges for artistic accomplishment which Hans Holbein the Younger met and engaged throughout his second rewarding visit in England from 1532 to 1543.16

Holbein the Younger Erasmus 1523 LouvreHans Holbein the Younger: Portrait of Erasmus, 1523, oil on wood, 42 x 32 cm, Louvre, Paris.

Holbein Erasmus Hands 1523 LouvreOne of Holbein’s study drawings of Erasmus’s hands for the profile portraits, silverpoint and chalks, 1523. Louvre.

Holbein erasmusHans Holbein the Younger: Portrait of Erasmus, 1523, oil on wood, 73.6 x 51.4 cm, London, National Gallery. Erasmus gifted this portrait to the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1524. The humanist is shown in three-quarter profile wearing a fur collar overcoat seated behind a table with his hands on an inscribed book. Behind the classicist and theologian are painted symbolic elements of the sitter’s profession and achievements: a Renaissance pilaster, green curtain and shelf of books with glass bottle. David Starkey of the National Gallery called this portrait “arguably the most important portrait in England” where “portraiture actually begins.”

Holbein Erasmus 1523 BaselHans Holbein the Younger: Portrait of Erasmus, 1523, paper mounted on wood, 36.8 x 30.5 cm, Öffentliche Kunstsammlung, Basel. Closely related to the Louvre portrait, it is lightly smaller but offers the same strict profile of the sitter. The profile derives from an ancient classical pose signifying political or intellectual power. In this painting Erasmus’s writing can be discerned: it is the opening of a commentary on the gospel of St. Mark dedicated to the king of France. (Wolf, p. 39)

Hans Holbein the Younger in England, 1526 to 1528.

Holbein the Younger, Thomas More, 1527
Hans Holbein the Younger: Thomas More (1477-1535), 1527, oil on oak panel, 29.5 in x 23.7 in. (74.9 cm x 60.3 cm), Frick Collection, New York. More became Lord Chancellor in 1529 where thereafter the great humanist scholar, author, and statesman, who resigned in 1532, defied the Act of Supremacy of 1534 that made Henry VIII head of the Church in England and was beheaded on July 6, 1535 for high treason. The “S-S” chain of office More wears in Holbein’s painting is an emblem of service to the King. (Frick, p. 48) More’s execution, coming in quick succession to John Fisher’s two weeks earlier, grieved Erasmus in Basel. Later, Erasmus in a letter lamented More’s involvement in “that dangerous business” which should have been left to “the theologians,” and ignored More’s plea on behalf of his conscience. (Huizinga, p. 183).

Thomas More_Frick_1527_head

Thomas More, 1526/27
Hans Holbein the Younger: Thomas More, 1526/1527, black and colored chalks, 9.8 x 29.9 cm sheet of paper, outlines pricked for transfer. The inscription is a later addition (18th century). Royal Collection Windsor.

Thomas More 1526/27
Hans Holbein the Younger: Thomas More, black and colored chalks, and brown wash on paper, 37.6 x 25.5 cm. Royal Collection Windsor. More’s career included study at Oxford and becoming a lawyer. He became a MP in 1504, King’s Councillor in 1518, was knighted in 1521, and became Speaker of the House of Commons in 1523. More became Lord Chancellor of England in 1529, but practical politics proved outside More’s forte. He resigned the office in 1532 and was beheaded for high treason in 1535. Thomas More was Holbein’s first patron in England, the German artist to enjoy a happier fate as the preeminent painter in the court of Henry VIII starting in the 1530’s. (Ganz, pp. 231-232)

The Living Room of the Frick Collection. Thomas More against Olver Cromwell with El Greco's Saint Jerome in the middle.
Frick Collection, New York City. Holbein the Younger’s Thomas More (1527) and Thomas Cromwell (1533) with El Greco’s Saint Jerome (1610) above the fireplace.

Anne Lovell, 1528
Hans Holbein the Younger: Portrait of a Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling (Anne Lovell), 1528, oil on oak, 56 x 38.8 cm, National Gallery, London. Recent scholarship has produced interesting speculations as to the identity of this unknown woman who, in any case, was in Thomas More’s circle (Foister, p. 30; Ganz, p. 232).

Lady Alice More, 1527.
Hans Holbein the Younger: Alice Middleton, Lady More, 1527, Corsham Court (private collection) near Bath, England, oil and tempera on oak, 14 1/2 x 10 5/8 in. This is a color study for the large family picture. The color chalk study is missing. Alice was Thomas More’s second wife.

Preparatory drawing More Family 1526/27
Hans Holbein the Younger: Portrait of Thomas More with his family, 1527, pen and black ink on paper,  Öffentliche Kunstsammlung, Basel. This is the preparatory drawing for a group portrait of the family of Sir Thomas More that was the major work of Holbein’s first period in England. The finished painting, whether on canvas or wood or a mural, is missing and was probably destroyed. It is the first nondevotional or ceremonial group portrait made north of the Alps (Ganz, p. 276). This is the household into which Holbein had taken up residence during his first visit to England. Thomas More lived outside London in a country house with his second wife Alice, his father John, his son John and bride to be Anne, three married daughters, eleven grandchildren and a live-in relative (Margaret Giggs). From left is Elizabeth Dauncy, More’s second daughter; Margaret Giggs; More’s father; Thomas More’s future daughter-in-law, Anne Cresacre; Sir Thomas More; More’s son; court entertainer Henry Patenson; More’s youngest daughter, Cecily Heron; eldest daughter, Margaret Roper; and More’s second wife, Alice. The Latin inscriptions in brown ink of the sitters’ names and ages were added a by astronomer-in-residence Nikolaus Kratzer (whose portrait was painted by Holbein).

Elizabeth Dauncey 1526/27
Holbein’s preparatory drawing of Elizabeth Dauncey, middle daughter of Thomas More. In 1525 she married Sir William Dauncey who served Henry VIII and was a member of parliament. This drawing’s later inscription (not by Nikolaus Kratzer) is inaccurate in its identification. (see –

Margaret Giggs by Hans Holbein the Younger.jpgMargaret Giggs Clement was Thomas More’s foster daughter. In 1526 she married John Clement, a court physician. Margaret eventually had eleven children and died in exile in the Netherlands in 1570. While the extant More family group drawing by Holbein shows Margaret leaning towards John More, this drawing may actually have served as the now-lost or destroyed painting’s final study. The exact meaning of the inscription “Mother Iak” is unknown. Royal Collection, Windsor.

Anne Cresacre , 1526/27.
Hans Holbein the Younger: Anne Cresacre (c.1511-1577), for the More family portrait. Royal Collection, Windsor.

Cecily Heron 1526/27
Hans Holbein the Younger: Cecily Heron (b, 1506 or 1507), youngest daughter of Sir Thomas More. She was married to Giles Heron, a Member of Parliament who was hanged for treason in 1540. Royal Collection, Windsor.

john more 1526
Hans Holbein the Younger: Sir John More (c.1451 – 1530), black and colored chalks, 35.1 x 27.3 cm. Thomas More’s father was a respected judge and described by a biographer as “very virtuous” and “merry.” Royal Collection, Windsor.

(Below) Hans Holbein the Younger: John More, black and colored chalks, 38.1 x 28.1 cm. Thomas More’s son. Royal Collection, Windsor.

john more son 1527

Sir Henry Guildford, 1527.
Hans Holbein the Younger: Sir Henry Guildford (1478-1532), Controller of the Royal Household, inscribed and dated, 1527, oil and tempera on wood, 32 1/8 x 26 in. (82.6 x 66.4 cm), Royal Collection, Windsor. Wearing the collar of the garter for his military service – which was the occasion for the portrait – Guildford, a physical giant of a man, holds the wand of office as Comptroller of the King’s Household. Sir Henry stands against a deep blue background, decorated with the twisting vine found in several Holbein portraits. Above the sitter’s head is a curtain rail, from which hangs a rich green curtain. This detail has lost context in the separation of the portrait from its companion, that of Guildford’s wife Mary.

Sir Henry Guildford (1489-1532)
Sir Henry Guildford, Black and colored chalks, and pen and ink on paper, 38.3 x 29.4 cm. The drawing is a study for the painted portrait. Sir Henry was one of Henry VIII’s closest friends and an early patron of Holbein.

Royal Collection, Windsor.

Mary Wotton, Lady Guildford 1527
Hans Holbein the Younger: Mary Wotton, Lady Guildford, inscribed and dated, 1527, tempera and oil on oak, 34 1/4 x 27 13/16 in.( 87 × 70.6 cm), St. Louis Art Museum. Mary was Sir Henry Guildford’s second wife. They married in 1525. She holds a devotional book.

Mary,_Lady_Guildford,_drawing_by_Hans_Holbein_the_YoungerMary Wotton, Lady Guildford, 1527, black and colored chalk on paper, 55.2 x 38.5 cm, Kunstmuseum Basel, Kupferstichkabinett. A study from life for the painted portrait. In the portrait Holbein muted the sitter’s overall playful expression and smile. Mary outlived Sir Henry to marry again.

William Warham, 1527
Hans Holbein the Younger: William Warham (1456-1532), Archbishop of Canterbury (first version), 1527, Oil and tempera on wood, 30 in x 25.75 in., Lambeth Palace, London.

William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1527
Hans Holbein the Younger: William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury (second version)1527, Tempera on wood, 32.3 in x 26.4 in. (82 cm x 67 cm), Musée du Louvre, Paris. Both versions include the episcopal crucifix of gold and jewels with Warham’s coat-of-arms and his motto, prayer books and the Archbishop’s jeweled miter. Warham had this “original replica” painted to reciprocate for a portrait of Erasmus he received. The color is richer in the replica. The brown curtain is replaced with a green one. A later copy of this painting resides in the National Portrait Gallery in London.

William Warham Archbishop Canterbury drawing by Hans Holbein the Younger
Hans Holbein the Younger: William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1527.  Colored chalk on paper, 40.1 x 31 cm, The Royal Collection, Windsor.  This is the preparatory drawing for the Louvre portrait. The sitter had been in his position since 1504 and remained there until his death in 1532. The similarities between the Holbein portrait of Erasmus (1523) and that of Warham (1527) are striking for their compositional elements and the conveyance of each sitter’s function by way of iconographical symbols so that these forms are a portrait template.

Holbein erasmus  William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1527Nikolaus Kratzer, 1528Hans Holbein the Younger: Portrait of Nikolaus Kratzer (1487-1550), 1528, Tempera on oak, 83 x 67 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris. The sitter was born in Munich and studied in Cologne and Wittenberg. With an appointment as professor to Corpus Christi College in Oxford, Kratzer relocated to England. As a humanist, he became friends with Thomas More and his family and, starting in 1519, served as an astronomer to Henry VIII’s court. The painting, created during Holbein’s first stay in England, continues to exemplify Holbein’s lively style of illustrating a sitter’s career. Kratzer was a maker of mathematical and geometrical instruments and is shown in practical involvement with these tools. Compared with the Guildford portraits of the year before, Holbein expresses a new subtlety of lighting and refined range of tones.

Sir Thomas Godsalve and His SonHans Holbein the Younger: Double Portrait of Sir Thomas Godsalve and His Son John, 1528, Resin tempera on oak, 35 x 36 cm, Gemäldegalerie, Dresden. Thomas Godsalve (1481-1542) was a notary from Norfolk.  Holbein cleverly shows him writing his name and age on a sheet of paper. By 1528, the Godsalves were among London’s most wealthy and politically influential men. (Wolf, p. 51) His son John (1510-1556) later had a double portrait of himself and his wife painted by Holbein.

Sir Henry Wyatt, c, 1528
Hans Holbein the Younger: Sir Henry Wyatt of Allington Castle, c. 1528?, oil on oak, 15.4 × 12.2 in. (39 × 31 cm), Musée du Louvre, Paris. Sir Henry Wyatt served in the court of Henry VII and Henry VIII and a member of the latter’s Privy Council. Sir Henry was part of the circle of Thomas More. N.B. This portrait, once thought to have been painted during Holbein’s first visit to England from 1526 to 1528, is today believed to have been painted towards the end of Sir Henry’s life.

Sir Brian Tuke c. 1527/1528 or c. 1532/1534
Hans Holbein the Younger: Sir Bryan Tuke, c. 1527/1528 or c. 1532/1534, oil on wood, 49 x 39 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. The sitter is about 57 years old. The date of the painting is unknown and its conjecture is based on its style although that leads to at least two possibilities. The physical mass of the body and the sitter’s expression suggest Holbein’s last year in England (mid 1528) although the painting’s other features (notably its horizontal lines of text) suggest the painting was made after Holbein’s return to London in 1532.  There are further later additions after that. The subject, Bryan Tuke (1470-1545), was, starting in 1509, Clerk of the Signet and then Cardinal Wolsey’s secretary. By 1528 Sir Bryan was Treasurer of the Royal Household and secretary to the king for French affairs, a post he held until his death in 1545. There exist several versions of this portrait.

St. Thomas 1527Hans Holbein the Younger: St. Thomas, 1527, Pen and black ink, brush and gray wash, heightened with white gouache, 8 1/16 x 4 1/8 in. (20.4 x 10.5 cm). Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.  Holbein produced a diversity of art in England, including design and decorative works (at Greenwich), book illuminations, and sacred art.  St. Thomas is part of a series of apostles of which nine are known. The ultimate application of these drawings is not known and even may have reached their final form in these studies. (Foister, p. 128)

noli me tangere
Hans Holbein the Younger: Noli Me Tangere, 1526-1528?, Oil on oak panel, 76.7 x 95.8 cm, Royal Collection Windsor. Holbein paints the gospel narrative of Mary Magdalen meeting Jesus Christ at his resurrection, with angels illuminating the tomb and night breaking for dawn. Between the major figures, a rushing Peter and John in the background are discussing matters.  Royal Collection, Windsor.

Sir Nicholas Carew
Hans Holbein the Younger: Sir Nicholas Carew, 1527, black and colored chalk sheet: 54.8 x 38.5 cm, Kunstmuseum Basel, Kupferstichkabinett, Amerbach-Cabinet. Sir Nicholas was Henry VIII’s Master of the Horse until he was implicated in one of the various popular uprisings against the same king’s religious policies in the mid-1530’s, and summarily executed in 1539. (Foister, p.121)Portrait of an Unknown Englishman 1527Hans Holbein the Younger: Portrait of an Unknown Englishman, 1527, black and colored chalk and leadpoint on prepared paper; outlines traced blind, 38.9 x 27.7 cm,  Kunstmuseum Basel, Kupferstichkabinett.

Portrait of an Unknown Englishwoman 1527Hans Holbein the Younger: Portrait of an Unknown Englishwoman, 1527, black and colored chalk and leadpoint on prepared paper; outlines traced blind, 38.9 x 27.7 cm,  Kunstmuseum Basel, Kupferstichkabinett. These two drawings were prepared for transfer to panels for painting portraits, neither of which survive.

FOOTNOTES (Introduction).

  1. Erasmus and the Age of Reformation, Johan Huizinga, Harper & Brothers, New York, reprint 1957, p. 223.
  2. Huizinga, p. 29.
  3. Huizinga, pp. 35-36.
  4. Huizinga, p. 58.
  5. Huizinga, pp. 79-81.
  6. Huizinga, p. 83.
  7. Huizinga, p. 85.
  8. Huizinga, p. 87.
  9. Hans Holbein The Younger: The German Raphael, Norbert Wolf, Taschen, Cologne, Germany, 2006, p. 28.
  10. Wolf, p. 38.
  11. Huizinga, p. 161.
  12. Wolf, p. 45.
  13. See podcast –
  14. Wolf, p. 39.
  15. Holbein in England, Susan Foister, Tate Publishing, London, 2006, p. 13.
  16.  An Advanced History of Great Britain: From the Earliest Times To the Death of Edward VII, T.F. Tout, M.A., Longmans, Green, and Co, New York, London, Bombay and Calcutta, 1913, p.342.

An Advanced History of Great Britain: From the Earliest Times To the Death of Edward VII, T.F. Tout, M.A., Longmans, Green, and Co, New York, London, Bombay and Calcutta, 1913.
Erasmus and the Age of Reformation, Johan Huizinga, Harper & Brothers, New York, reprint 1957.
Five centuries of British painting: from Holbein to Hodgkin, Andrew Wilton, London: Thames & Hudson, 2001.
Holbein in England, Susan Foister, Tate Publishing, London, 2006.
Hans Holbein The Younger: The German Raphael, Norbert Wolf, Taschen, Cologne, Germany, 2006.
The Frick Collection /A Tour, Edgar Munhall,, The Frick Collection, New York, 1999.
The Paintings of Hans Holbein: First Complete Edition, Paul Ganz, Phaidon, London, 1950.

LINKS: – retrieved February 26, 2018

Hans Holbein the Younger: ‘A man very excellent in taking of physionamies’ (sic) – Dr Susan Foister – – retrieved February 26, 2018. – retrieved February 26, 2018.

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

The Prison Meditations of Alfred Delp, S.J. (1907-1945) for Advent and Christmas.

FSB 12.14.13 DSC_0677

FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT 2017 (December 3).

During World War II in Germany, Alfred Delp, S.J. (1907 – Berlin, 2 February 1945) was a member of the Kreisauer Kreis (The Kreisau Circle) composed of German men and women from a variety of backgrounds who opposed Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime. Fr. Delp was arrested by the Nazis in 1944 and, after six months in prison in shackles, the German Catholic priest and Jesuit was sentenced to death for high treason and executed by hanging on Candlemas 1945. Following the Allied victory, Delp’s prison writings were assembled into a posthumous book called Facing Death (German: Im Angesicht des Todes). A highlight of the 37-year-old Delp’s writings are his seasonal sermons and meditations for Advent and Christmas which were written as he languished in a cell “three steps wide” surrounded by Nazi guards. His writings, scrawled on numerous slips of paper and smuggled out before his death, have been compared to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison also written in Tegel prison in Berlin, Germany, during World War II. Father Delp was developing his thoughts and writing about the annual Advent drama at least as early as 1933 so his prison writings became a concluding chapter of a lasting adult interest as he faced his death.

Alfred Delp

Alfred Delp S.J. (German, 15 September 1907 – Berlin, 2 February 1945) wrote his meditations and sermons on Advent and Christmas as a political prisoner in Nazi Germany in World War II.

From Alfred Delp, S.J., “Figures of Advent” (adapted), Advent of the Heart, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2006:

“I see this year’s Advent (December 1944 in Berlin’s Tegel Prison) with an intensity and discomposure like never before….Along with these thoughts comes the memory of an angel that a good person gave me for Advent in 1942. It held a banner: ‘Rejoice, for the Lord is near.’ A war bomb destroyed the angel as well as that good person although I often sense that she continues to do angel-services for me. It is the knowledge of the quiet angels of annunciation, who speak their message of blessing into the distress of our world situation and scatter their blessing’s seeds which begin to grow in the middle of the night which informs and encourages us of the truth of a situation. These angels of Advent are not loud angels of public jubilation and fulfillment but, silent and unnoticed, they come into private and shabby rooms and appear before our hearts as they did long ago. Silently they bring the questions of God and proclaim to us the miracles of God, with whom nothing is impossible. Advent is a time of refuge because it has received a message – and so to believe in God’s auspicious seeds that the angels offer an open heart are the first things we must do with our lives. The next is to go through the days as announcing messengers ourselves. We wait in faith for the abundance of the coming harvest – not because we trust the earth or the stars or our own good sense and courage – but only because we have perceived God’s messages and know about His herald angels – and even have ourselves encountered one.”

FSB DSC_0701

SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT 2017 (December 10).

Thomas Merton in his Introduction to Alfred Delp’s Prison Writings – a modern compilation of a young German Jesuit’s writings in prison in Berlin before he was executed for high treason as a Nazi resister in World War II – states that Delp was condemned because he and others “hoped to build a new Germany on Christian principles.” (p. xxv.) Merton links Delp’s political activity in the Kreisau Circle—an underground group of about twenty-five German dissidents of diverse backgrounds opposed to the Nazi regime—to broader Church doctrine and the western tradition of liberalism in evidence since the Ancient Greeks that “always hoped to attain a more equitable world order by peaceful collaboration among nations.” (ibid.) For Delp, according to Merton, the stark choice before human beings remained the crucial one of global order or global destruction. Father Delp observed that even religious people in his time had fallen into the militaristic government’s syllogistic trap of “conquest first and a new and better world later.” Delp’s concern when making this sort of choice is that “if the person who says it tolerates or helps further conditions which are fatal to mankind…or weakens his or her own spiritual, moral, and religious sense” – then even “the most pious prayer can become a blasphemy.” (ibid.) Delp proposed that any human indifference to honesty and justice originating in passionate conviction vitiates human nature which is left to then express itself in a vicious circle of fear and arrogance. From Delp’s perspective, his active participation in Kreisauer Kreis for which he was executed by the Nazis in February 1945 pointed to the eschatological character of the Advent drama by Delp’s hope in his time for the political and social ruin of Germany which had sunk into bitter darkness and that it would find its way ahead by the light of each person’s burning candle “for honesty and justice.”

FSB 12.23.17 DSC_0290

From Alfred Delp S.J., Prison Writings, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, 2004:

“So this Sunday we must again fold our hands and kneel humbly before God in order that his salvation may be active in us and that we may be ready to call upon him and be moved by his presence. The arrogance so typical of modern men and women is deflated here. At the same time, the icy loneliness and helplessness into which we are frozen melts under the divine warmth that fills and blesses us …If we are terrified by a dawning realization of our true condition, that terror is completely calmed by the certain knowledge that God is on the way and actually approaching. Our fate, no matter how much it may be entwined with the inescapable logic of circumstance, is still nothing more than the way to God, the way God has chosen for the ultimate consummation of his purpose, for his permanent ends. Light your candles – such candles as you possess – for they are the appropriate symbol for all that must happen in Advent if we are to live.”

FSB 12.23.17 DSC_0669

THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT 2017 (December 17).

On Friday, July 28, 1944, two Gestapo men were waiting outside St. George’s church in Munich, a simple Baroque pile in an almost pastoral setting near the Englischer Garten. Eight days before there had been an assassination attempt on Hitler’s life which failed. For active German dissidents to the Nazi regime in custody and, for the time being, still walking free – things were going to get worse. Helmuth James Graf von Moltke (1907 – 1945), one of the leaders of the Kreisau Circle, a type of anti-Nazi salon, had been in prison since January 1944. Now, following the failed bombing at the Wolf’s Lair, the other leader of the Kreisau Circle, Peter Yorck von Wartenburg (1904 –1944), was arrested immediately, sent to Berlin and tried and executed on August 8, 1944.

St. Georg München-Bogenhausen

St. Georg München-Bogenhausen, the parish church of Father Delp where the Gestapo arrested him on July 28, 1944.

Interior, St. Georg München-Bogenhausen.

Interior, St. Georg München-Bogenhausen. Parish church where German resister and martyr Alfred Delp, S.J. was pastor during World War II.

One of the two Gestapo men waiting outside St. George’s to arrest Father Alfred Delp, S.J. happened to be an old schoolmate of his. Like other Catholic bishops and priests who were de facto dissenters working against the Nazi regime, especially its social and racial ideologies and practices, Delp too had long been under close surveillance by the Gestapo. As a member of the Kreisau Circle – a group of professionals of varying religious, social, and political backgrounds but all of them dyed-in-the-wool anti-Nazis – Delp was their social scientist with a Ph.D. who illumined their minds to cutting-edge labor issues including the German worker’s role after the war in a post-Nazi Germany.

Helmuth James Graf von Moltke

Helmuth James Graf von Moltke (March 11, 1907 – January 23, 1945). Count Moltke had close sympathies with the democratic forces of the day and expressed open criticism as he watched the rise of Hitler. In 1933 he refused to accept Nazi appointments. After the outbreak of World War II, as an expert adviser on international law and the laws of war he served as war administration councilor in the Office for Foreign Affairs/Counterintelligence in the Armed Forces High Command in Berlin. He was particularly active in advocating for humane treatment of prisoners of war and observance of international law. In 1940 Moltke with Peter Graf Yorck von Wartenburg became the leading figures in a group that emerged as the Kreisau Circle with its discussions held in Berlin and Kreisau. Moltke, formulating memoranda on the establishment of a new political order in Germany, systematically extended his contacts to Protestant and Catholic church leaders and to leaders of the social democratic political opposition. Moltke was arrested on January 19, 1944 after he had warned members of the Solf Circle that they were under Gestapo surveillance. His involvement in the plans for a coup against Hitler was not exposed until after the failure of the assassination attempt of July 20, 1944. Helmuth James Graf von Moltke was sentenced to death by the People’s Court on January 11, 1945 and executed on January 23, 1945 in Berlin-Plötzensee.

Once under arrest, Delp disappeared into Nazi prisons in Munich and Berlin for almost three weeks. None of his friends could find him. At Lehrterstrasse, a Gestapo prison in Berlin that specifically dealt with German resisters, the doctor-priest was regularly beaten. Delp was charged by the National Socialists with a half dozen crimes—being in Kriesau Circle; holding resistance meetings; knowing von Moltke and other anti-Nazis; knowing Claus von Stauffenberg who placed the bomb on July 20, 1944 to assassinate Hitler; knowing in advance of the assassination plot; and, displaying a general attitude of anti-Nazism. The charge of knowing about the assassination plot before it happened greatly concerned Delp. He categorically denied it and, consequently, worked vigorously through his lawyer to disprove it.

On August 15, 1944, having moved to Tegel Prison in Berlin on August 8, Delp’s whereabouts were finally discovered by Marianne Hapig (1894-1973), a social worker and indefatigable friend to German resistance. Delp found another significant friend at Tegel—Harald Poelchau (1907-1972) the prison’s Lutheran chaplain since 1933. With the agency of chaplain Poelchau, Catholic Father Delp had wafers and wine to say mass and messages could be smuggled in and out by way of the laundry. It was through such a clandestine route that Father Delp made his final vows as a Jesuit on December 8, 1944. In front of a visiting witness, Fr. Delp pronounced the vow formula and, later apologizing for the emotion, sank into a prison chair and wept.

Marianne Hapig.

Marianne Hapig (March 5, 1894 – March 23, 1973) discovered Father Delp’s presence at Tegel prison in Berlin after his disappearance following his arrest in Munich three weeks earlier. A career social worker and anti-Nazi Marianne Hapig and her lifelong jurist friend Marianne Pünder managed to smuggle Alfred Delp’s prison writings out of Tegel prison where soon after the war they were published.


Harald Poelchau (October 5, 1903 – April 29, 1972). He gained his doctorate in 1931 under Paul Tillich, the leading representative of Religious Socialism. At the end of 1932, Poelchau applied for a prison chaplain’s post in Berlin and became the first cleric to be employed by the National Socialist regime in a penal institution. As an official in the Justice Department he rapidly became an important source of support for the victims of National Socialist violence, and gave spiritual comfort to hundreds of people sentenced to death as they faced execution. From 1941 onwards he was a member of the circle around Helmuth James Graf von Moltke and attended the first major Kreisau Conference. After the failed coup attempt of July 20, 1944 Poelchau was able to pass on last messages and farewell letters to the relatives of many of those sentenced to death. Harald Poelchau managed to avoid being investigated by the Gestapo and survived the war.

Many of Delp’s Advent writings come from these months in prison, smuggled out by Marianne Hapig and her lifelong friend Marianne Pünder. For more than a decade, Delp had written extensively on the Christian season of expectant waiting for the coming of Christmas. During these months in prison, his hands almost always in chains, Delp had identified with a specific artwork as he wrote his Advent thoughts onto endless slips of paper. It was a sixteenth century German wood sculpture of St. Sebastian known as Die gefesselten Hände (English:“Bound Hands”) by Tilman Riemenschneider (c.1460-1531).

Tilman Riemenschneider

Die gefesselten Hände (“Bound Hands”) by Tilman Riemenschneider (c.1460-1531).

detail Tilman Riemenschneider bound hands

Die gefesselten Hände (English:“Bound Hands”) by Tilman Riemenschneider (c.1460-1531). Detail.

At his two-day trial in January 1945, rabid Nazi judge Roland Freisler was interested in one charge against Delp – his association with von Moltke. The leader of Kreisauer Kreis would be soon on death row and executed on January 23, 1945. Friesler’s reign of terror already included five thousand death sentences as president of the People’s Court since 1942. It did not help that Delp was a Catholic priest and Jesuit. So with Hitler, Friesler was maniacally anticlerical. Although many Nazis grew up as Catholics, in adulthood such notorious men as Hitler, Josef Goebbels, Martin Bormann, Heinrich Himmler, and others, held Christianity in utter and complete contempt. (Ian Kershaw; Hitler: a Biography; pp. 381–82). Once in power, Hitler believed that Christianity signified “the systematic cultivation of the human failure” and that its religious organization and central beliefs had to be marginalized and eventually purged from a heroic German worldview (Alan Bullock; Hitler: a Study in Tyranny; p. 218). When Hitler invaded Poland in September 1939, the Superior-General of the Jesuits was just then a Pole, Wlodimir Ledóchowski, S.J. (1866 –1942). Ledóchowski who was in charge of neutral Vatican Radio made international broadcasts about Nazi wartime atrocities in many languages.

Wlodimir Ledóchowski, S.J.

Wlodimir Ledóchowski, S.J. (1866 –1942) had been the Polish Superior-General of the Jesuits since 1915 when Hitler invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, setting off World War II. A renowned institutional builder, Ledóchowski established several notable institutes and colleges in Rome. In January 1940, Vatican Radio controlled by the Jesuits and with Pope Pius XII’s authorization broadcast the details of the Polish wartime situation. When the German ambassador protested the German language broadcasts, the Pope honored the request.  But Vatican Radio broadcasts in other languages of the Poland situation continued and in even more explicit detail. The British press at the time hailed Vatican Radio as “tortured Poland’s powerful advocate.” (Peter Hebblethwaite; Paul VI The First Modern Pope, Paulist Press, 1993, p. 140.)

That Father Delp remained a Jesuit—even after he was offered a plea deal by the Nazis to walk free of all charges if he renounced his religious faith—undoubtedly deserved the death penalty in Freisler’s court. After the death sentence was pronounced on January 11, 1945, the typical procedure of immediate execution was delayed. During this time, the bombing by British and Americans intensified. Delp desperately hoped that the Allies would arrive in time to set political prisoners like him free. But, finally, on February 2, 1945, at Berlin-Plötzensee Alfred Delp was taken from his holding pen by the Nazi executioner and executed by hanging. The next day, February 3, 1945, Roland Freisler presiding in his People’s Court, was killed by collateral damage in an Allied bombing attack.

Original Painting of Jesus by Thérèse of Lisieux.

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (French, 1873-1897) traced and painted this image of the Holy Face of Jesus and tacked it to wool for hanging as a gift to her sister Céline who was at home at Les Buissonnets taking care of their widower father who was suffering from illness. The National Shrine of St. Thérèse in Darien, Illinois. A similar sort of facial expression may be expected to be found on Father Delp for his condemnation and execution by the Nazis on February 2, 1945 for “hop[ing] to build a new Germany on Christian principles.”

From Alfred Delp, S.J., “Meditation for the Third Sunday of Advent Written in Tegel Prison, Berlin, December 1944” (adapted), Advent of the Heart, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2006:

“Mankind is challenged again to stand and deliver. Only man does not merely exchange one set of chains for another – God’s calls are always creative. They increase the very reality within us that is called upon – precisely because of their realness and authenticity…Freedom is the breath of life. We sit in musty bomb cellars and cramped prisons and groan under the bursting and destructive blows of fate. We should finally stop giving everything a false glamour and unrealistic value and begin to bear it for what it is – unredeemed life. As soon as we do this, the jangling of chains and the trembling of nerves and the faintness of heart transform themselves into a small prayer – “Drop down, dew…” We should much more definitively unite our concrete destiny with those kind of connections and call upon God’s redeeming freedom. Then the narrowness widens, our lungs breathe in fresh air again, and the horizon has promises again. Existence still weeps and mourns, but already a soft, joyous melody of longing and knowledge is ringing through the mourners’ broken voices. With this knowledge and attitude humanity releases itself from the lonely relationship to things and circumstances. A person finds wholesomeness and healing – not the goal-oriented, cool distance of calculation, mechanization, and organization. It is rather that higher level of freedom, the perspective given to someone looking from the heights to what lies below. The voice of such a person is not so quickly silenced!”

“The conditions for true joy have nothing to do with conditions of our exterior life but consist of humanity’s interior frame of mind and competence, which make it possible now and again for the person to sense, even in adverse circumstances, what life is really about…And the first answer is found in the figure of John the Baptist who personifies Advent. Humanity must be brought to an absolute clarity about himself and honestly before himself and others. He must come down from all the pedestals of arrogance onto which he always climbs…From the high-horses of vanity and self-deception that, for a time, let themselves be trotted out so proudly. Those horses though finally throw off their “master” in the wilderness…Two criteria identify whether we are following an authentic impulse or not…Both are found once again in John the Baptist. The first is service – human honesty requires a person to see himself as a servant and perceive his reality as mission and an assignment…The second criterion keeps us on track- annunciation, which calls us to praise of God. An extended personal effort is required to keep giving oneself the impulse to rise above, move away from self. But at the same time this is how a human being attains the necessary openness in which he or she must continue if sincerely wanting to strive toward the great realities God has prepared for him or her.”

Advent Nativity

Advent Nativity.

FOURTH SUNDAY IN ADVENT 2017 (December 24).

Merton makes clear about Father Delp that his writings on Advent are usually a simple presentation of the traditional Christian faith with no special originality to his images. (p. xxxv, Prison Writings). It is Delp’s application of those facts based in his personal experience – that is, as an active dissident and prisoner of a Germany in ruins during World War II – that infuses a sometimes hackneyed outcome to Advent of its original hope. In Fr. Delp’s world, if humanity is fully alert to the desperation and bitterness of the times, Advent’s basic image of God-made-man becomes opportune, favorable, for humanity’s future although not holding any foregone conclusions or sudden outcomes.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” Luke 4:18-19.

Thomas Merton views Father Delp’s Advent meditations in Pauline terms, although Delp himself found St. Paul had a ‘tendency to over-emphasize.’ (p. 55, ibid.). Humanity hopes in God’s close alliance so to win back or have restored a future that is not any longer in ruins and in which humanity – and even life itself – is absurdly helpless to fix.

From Alfred Delp S.J., Prison Writings, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, 2004:

“God in the Christmas encounter is still the challenging God. The greatest misconceptions all center round the typical Christmas picture of God.  Humanity becomes so wrapped up in appearance that the breathtaking reality of the birth of God as a human child scarcely enters our mind and the soul doesn’t grasp its significance….Of course the externals, the sweet sentimental pictures, carols, cribs and so on, are a comfort….but there is a great deal more to the nativity than that. The truth of it is too tremendous to be appreciated unless one concentrates on it fully. Since the birth of God, humanity has been confirmed in the hope that when we turn to God’s throne for favor that God is on our side. This does not mean that God has dethroned Himself any more than it means that human life has become a primrose path in the wake of that stupendous event. We need to look critically at the tendency to sentimentalize the divine attributes by personifying them in an innocent child or over-beautifying the adult Jesus. The glamorizing of the nativity story – the making the whole tone of Christ’s life equal to a Baroque sermon full of ominous warnings and grave moralizing –  has contributed quite a lot to the West’s being paralyzed in the face of those conditions that hinder us and keep us trapped. God became man but nevertheless is God, master of all creation. Human beings must approach the God-made-man with reverence and adoration – disenthralling themselves in order to find themselves. It is the only way.”

Nativity window.

Nativity stained glass window (detail), Sts. Peter & Paul, Naperville, IL. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2018!


Bullock, Alan, Hitler: a Study in Tyranny, Completely Revised Edition, Harper & Row, New York, 1964.

Delp, S.J., Alfred, Advent of the Heart, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2006.

Delp, S.J., Alfred, Prison Writings, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, 2004.

Hebblethwaite, Peter, Paul VI The First Modern Pope, Paulist Press, New York, 1993.

Kershaw, Ian, Hitler: a Biography, W. W. Norton & Company, New York, 2010.

Kidder, Annemarie S., Ultimate Price Testimonies of Christians who Resisted the Third Reich, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, 2012.

Royal, Robert, The Catholic Martyrs of the Twentieth Century A Comprehensive World History, Crossroad, New York, 2000.

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

Blessed Franz Jägerstätter (1907-1943): Farmer, Husband and Father, Conscientious Objector, and Martyr.

Text by John P. Walsh

Dated October 26, 2017.

In his 17-minute speech at the TED conference in April 2017, Pope Francis talked about the importance of human interdependence, equality, and inclusion. Perhaps surprisingly, the pope stressed the power of the human individual to affect positive change. While one might expect a pope to wax on communal connections reflected in a Gospel passage such as, “For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20), Pope Francis looked instead to the radical nature of the single individual to bring about a message of hope into the world. Pope Francis said: “A single individual is enough for hope to exist and only then it turns into ‘us.’ And so, does hope only exist when it turns into us? – No. Hope starts with the individual ‘you.’ When there is an us, it starts a revolution.” Grounded in an individual’s conscience and action, hope for the world can begin. The pope is savvy enough to know that this message of hope by way of a single individual—and he encourages his TED auditors to be that individual— does not comes without its price. What Mother Teresa of Calcutta said on love the pope adapted to any message of hope: that it cannot be done “unless it comes at your own expense.”

The power of an individual to be the cause of hope with potential to revolutionize even a nation is what Richard Attenborough (1923-2014) dramatizes from history in his 1983 Academy-Award-winning bio-pic film, Gandhi (1983). Early in the three-hour film, in segregated South Africa, young Indian lawyer Mohandas K. Gandhi (Ben Kingsley) is visited at his ashram by an equally young American journalist (Martin Sheen) who tells Gandhi he is an awfully small minority to be taking on governments and empires. But Gandhi replies: “If you are a minority of one – the truth is the truth.”

Questions of the conflict of the morality of individual conscience and the social morality which is directed to the attainment and conservation of the values represented by the state and the nation is part of what the young American journalist, in the film Gandhi, warned the hero about—and which remains in tension in any era, including today. The debate surrounding the nature or limits of individual conscience as well as its interaction with cultural earthly values and things is bound to be— at least philosophically and even theologically— complex and indefinite. Arguments and subtleties become rife when these topics are raised. Following some of the definitions and descriptions of conscience from Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) — and as only part of the range for hope that Pope Francis alludes to in his TED speech— the conscience’s normal function relates to resisting action demanded from within or outside the self. Although conscience, according to Bonhoeffer, is not called upon in the face of good—it simply acts—nor includes the whole fabric of life, when the individual conscience encounters a forbidden act, it views it as “a peril to life as a whole, that is to say, disunion with oneself.” Bonhoeffer’s Protestant theology will not boast of having a good conscience except to say that, by it, humans importantly discover their lack of knowledge of God as well as their own corruption and that by this self-knowledge expressed in conscience find a road to God. Bonhoeffer writes: “All knowledge is now based on self-knowledge….Knowledge now means the establishment of the relationship to oneself; it means the recognition in all things to oneself and of oneself in all things. For man who is in disunion with God, all things are in this disunion, what is and what should be, life and law, knowledge and action, idea and reality, reason and instinct, duty and inclination, conviction and advantage, necessity and freedom, exertion and genius, universal and concrete, individual and collective; even truth, justice, beauty and love come into opposition with one another, just as do pleasure and displeasure, happiness and sorrow…All these disunions are varieties of the disunion in the knowledge of good and evil. The point of decision of the specifically ethical experience is always conflict. But in conflict the judge is invoked; and the judge is the knowledge of good and evil; he is man.”


Franz Jägerstätter (May 20, 1907-executed, August 9, 1943).

On October 26, 2007 at St. Mary Cathedral in Linz, Austria, Pope Benedict XVI in front of 5,000 pilgrims beatified Franz Jägerstätter, a relatively unknown 36-year-old Austrian farmer who was executed by the Nazis in August 1943 because—similar to Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music—he was anti-Nazi and refused to fight in their armed forces. Blessed Jägerstätter’s 94-year-old widow, Franziska (1914-2013), and his four daughters, one from a previous relationship, attended the beatification. Franziska rode to the cathedral in the sidecar of a motorcycle, in memory of her husband’s love of motorcycling. After being drafted three times into the German army, Franz Jägerstätter decided after his training and noncombatant military service ended in April 1941 that he would not comply with any future compulsory enlistment in the Third Reich. To this end, he compiled gut-wrenching notes with his opinions on his conscientious objection in the face of the Nazi régime. After her husband’s arrest in early 1943, Franziska hid his writings and brought them into the light of day after the war. By that time,  Franz Jägerstätter lay buried in an obscure and sometimes defaced grave in St. Radegund, Austria, a mountainous village northwest of Salzburg. In notes written during his erratic military service—Jägerstätter had been sworn into the German army on June 17, 1940 at Braunau Am Inn which lasted only a few days before he received a deferment and then called-up again to serve from October 1940 to April 1941 until another deferment —the Austrian farmer examined issues surrounding his refusal to fight anymore. By expounding in writing as well as posing argumentative questions Jägerstätter judged what he should do in response to his deep-seated antipathy to the Nazi régime and its war effort.

For his beatification in 2007—a first step to Catholic sainthood—Jägerstätter’s family and supporters recalled his clear rejection of National Socialism because of their racial policies, including the myth of racial purity; war glorification; state deification; and their declared program of annihilating all faith and religion. Jägerstätter’s total rejection of Nazism echoed Bishop Johannes Maria Gföllner of Linz (1867-1941) whose extensive writings and sermons in this period provided a phrase Jägerstätter would consider his motto: “It is impossible to be a good Catholic and a true Nazi.” When Hitler came to Linz on March 12, 1938 Bishop Gföllner refused to meet with him and lamented other bishops in Austria who were more ingratiating. Bishop Gföllner regarded the myth of racial purity propagated by Nazism as “a backsliding into an abhorrent heathenism.” In 1933 Gföllner wrote: “The Nazi standpoint on race is completely incompatible with Christianity and must therefore be resolutely rejected. This also applies to the radical anti-Semitic racism preached by Nazism. To despise, hate and persecute the Jewish people just because of their ancestry is inhuman and against Christian principles … ”


Bishop Johannes Maria Gföllner (center) at a celebration in 1935.

Adopting St. Thomas More, St Thérèse of Lisieux and other saints (including the patron of Switzerland) as his role models, Jägerstätter challenged virtually everyone he knew or came into contact with—be it his mother, neighbors, or church or civil representatives— with his developing conviction to refuse to fight for the Third Reich. What was seen to be his civic duty and the only action he could concievably follow so to “save his life” Jägerstätter was having serious doubts over. Even Jägerstätter’s loving wife Franziska argued that he should comply with any conscription order. Less than two years before, in April 1938, Franziska had to insist that he not shirk attending the Anschluss plebiscite which Jägerstätter declared he had every intention to do. On March 12, 1938, less than one month before the plebiscite, German troops occupied Austria and, that same day, Hitler personally crossed the long-closed border to visit Linz. Under penalty of being sent to a concentration camp for electoral truancy, the official turnout for the Anschluss plebiscite was reported at 99.71%—with 99.73% in favor of annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany. Thirty-year-old Franz Jägerstätter formed part of that microscopic minority in Austria who voted “no” to Hitler’s Anschluss and was the only one of St. Radegund’s 500 citizens to do so. Though never part of an organized resistance, Franz Jägerstätter was soon identified by an informer to the Gestapo as anti-Nazi which the town mayor—who on his own initiative did not report Jägerstätter’s vote to the authorities and had obtained Jägerstätter’s two deferments —quashed. Now as 1941 turned into 1942 and 1943, Franziska once and for all decided to stand by her husband in this matter of his refusal to fight for Hitler in the Wehrmacht after seeing him for many months and years argue his points alone. “If I had not stood by him,” she later explained, “he would have had no one.”

Franz Jägerstätter

Franz Jägerstätter on a motorbike in St. Radegund, Austria, following his first deferment in summer 1940 after a few days in the German army.

Für eine „klare Haltung gegen rechtsextreme Umtriebe“ hat sich die Katholische Aktion Oberösterreich (KA) ausgesprochen.

Franz Jägerstätter (third from the left) during training as a military driver in Enns, Austria, in November 1940 during his second call up.

While firmly against Nazi ideology, Franz’s ultimate refusal to serve in the German armed forces developed more deliberately. After being conscripted twice in 1940, it was during basic training on December 8, 1940 in Enns that Jägerstätter entered the Secular Franciscans. After taking “Third Order” vows in St. Radegund church in 1941, he grew more determined to be a pacifist in regard to the German war effort. Jägerstätter believed as an individual who formed his conscience and acted upon it —in his case, saying a resolute “no” to Nazism, including as a conscientious objector— would “change nothing in world affairs.” But Jägerstätter hoped that his conscientious objection would be “a sign” that not everyone let themselves be “carried away with the tide.” Jägerstätter acted on his conscience until, as Mother Teresa of Calcutta observed, “it came at his own expense.” Any of his thoughtful wrangling—if he hoped it would sway others—did not occur. Almost thirty years after the fall of the Third Reich, some villagers continued to view Jägerstätter’s brand of pacifism as unnecessary, extreme, “religious,” and even traitorous in terms of national defense. At war’s end, except for his wife and daughters—and they were denied state benefits until the 1990’s—there was a handful of anti-Nazi resisters—some of whom were Catholic priests— who supported or otherwise mirrored Jägerstätter’s brand of conscientious objection. But many of the individuals who, like Jägerstätter, acted on what they recognized as a Biblical call to social justice laid in their own obscure, premature graves because they, too, had been condemned as enemies of the state.

Jägerstätter woods

Austrian farmer Franz Jägerstätter refused to support the Nazis and participate in the war effort, despite a tidal wave of pressure to do so in World War II.



“Who dares to assert that among the German people in this war only one person bears the responsibility, and why then did so many millions of Germans have to give their ‘Yes’ or ‘No’? Can one be reproached today for lacking patriotism? Do we still even have a mother country in this world? For if a country is supposed to be my mother country, it may not just impose duties—one must also have rights, and do we have rights here today? If someone becomes ineducable and might be a burden on the state, what happens to them? Would such a mother country be worth defending at all? Which we cannot speak of anyway, because Germany was attacked by no one. Once, I believe, we would have had the right to defend ourselves, and that was four years ago when we were still Austrians…”


“Let’s just ask ourselves: are Austria and Bavaria blameless that we now have a Nazi government instead of a Christian one? Did Nazism just simply drop on us from the sky? I believe we needn’t waste many words about it, for anyone who hasn’t slept through the past decade knows well enough how and why everything has come about in the way it has…In March 1938, what horror stories weren’t spread and invented here in Austria against Chancellor [Kurt] Schuschnigg (1897-1977), a still Christian-minded man, and against the clergy? Those few who didn’t catch the madness and who couldn’t be persuaded to cast that misguided ‘Yes’ vote were simply labeled fools or Communists, yet today the Nazis still haven’t given up the struggle to maybe win those fools over to the Nazi movement after all, or at least to sacrifice them to their ideology!”

“What Catholic can dare to say that these raids which Germany has carried out in several countries, and is still carrying out, constitute a just and holy war?”

“Oh, we poor German people, bedazzled by delusions of grandeur, will we ever return to reason again? As the saying goes: ‘Nothing comes about by chance, everything comes from above.’ Then did this war, which we Germans are already waging against almost all the peoples of the world, break over us as suddenly as, perhaps, a terrible hailstorm, which one is forced to watch powerlessly, only praying that it will soon stop without causing too much damage? For, thanks to the radio, newspapers, rallies, etc., nearly all of us knew what program Hitler was planning to carry out, and that the shrugging off of the debts and the demonetization of the Reich mark would bring about the very consequences which have now occurred in plenty …”


“It is very sad to hear again and again from Catholics that this war, waged by Germany, is perhaps not so unjust because it will wipe out Bolshevism. It is true that at present most of our soldiers are stuck in the worst Bolshevist country, and simply want to make harmless and defenseless the people who live there and defend themselves. But now a question: what are they fighting in this country – Bolshevism or the Russian people? When our Catholic missionaries went to a pagan country to make them Christians did they advance with machine guns and bombs in order to convert and improve them? Most of these noble warriors for Christianity wrote home that if they only had the means to hand things out, everything would go much faster… If we look back a little into history, we note almost the same thing again and again: if a conqueror attacks another country with war, they have not normally invaded the country to improve people or even perhaps give them something, but usually to get something for themselves. If we fight the Russian people, we will get much from that country which is of use to us here. If one were merely fighting Bolshevism, these others things – minerals, oil wells or good farmland – would not be a factor.”


“Again and again, people try to trouble my conscience over my wife and children. Is an action any better because one is married and has children? Is it better or worse because thousands of other Catholics are doing the same?”


“If the Church stays silent in the face of what is happening, what difference would it make if no church were ever opened again?”


“Ever since people have existed on this earth, experience teaches us that God gives people free will and has only very seldom noticeably interfered in the fate of individuals and peoples, and that therefore it will be no different in the future either, except at the end of the world. Adam and Eve already completely ruined their destiny through their disobedience towards God; God gave them free will and they would never have had to suffer if they had listened more to God than to the tempter. Even His beloved Son would then have been spared infinite suffering. And so it will remain until the end of the world: that every sin has consequences. But woe to us if we always try to avoid shouldering those consequences and aren’t willing to do penance for our sins and errors.”

Nationalratspräsidentin Barbara Prammer gratuliert Franziska Jägerstätter zum 99. Geburtstag

Franz Jägerstätter’s wife Franziska on her 99th birthday (center) with two of their three daughters, Maria (left) and Aloisia (right). With local dignitaries in 2012.

Nationalratspräsidentin Barbara Prammer gratuliert Franziska Jägerstätter zum 99. Geburtstag

Visiting Franz Jägerstätter’s gravesite in S. Radegund, Austria, in 2012.

2007-10-26_10.59.25 (1)

At the Beatification for Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, conscientious objector, on October 26, 2007 at St. Mary Cathedral in Linz, Austria.


Franziska Jägerstätter with Bishop Ludwig Schwarz, Beatification of Franziska Jägerstätter, October 26, 2007.Jagerstatter-window-Newman-Centre-rev-e1487610325818


Austrian layman Blessed Franz Jägerstätter depicted in stained glass in St. Radegund with his beloved motorcycle .

Franz Jägerstätter sought advice from friends and clergy about his intention to be a conscientious objector. His decision caused arguments in his family and among his friends. One local priest told Jägerstätter that his decision to not serve in the Nazi military was “suicidal” and although the church hierarchy had accommodated Nazism under the rationale to keep Austrian Catholic parish church doors open to bestow the sacraments, Jägerstätter was, at least in this instance, refused absolution. Since Bishop Gföllner’s pastoral letters had significant influence on Franz Jägerstätter’s evaluation of Nazism, he hoped to receive helpful advice from Gföllner’s successor, Bishop Joseph Calasanz Fliesser (1896-1960). Prepared as usual, Jägerstätter brought eleven difficult questions to ask the bishop. But this new bishop, the Anschluss already in place, was  taciturn. Fliesser did not resolve Jägerstätter’s questions but reminded him of his family responsibility. Jägerstätter bristled, however, at the bishop’s traditional advice that as a soldier he would not be held accountable by the church for following orders.  Jägerstätter wrote: “We may just as well strike out the gifts of wisdom and understanding from the Seven Gifts for which we pray to the Holy Spirit. For if we’re supposed to obey the Führer blindly anyway, why should we need wisdom and understanding?” To be fair to the bishop, some have claimed his cautious response was that he feared Jägerstätter could be a Nazi spy. Others claim that such a pall of collective dread had settled over the populace that the bishop could not understand or accept how one individual farmer could be so truly courageous. Later, at Jägerstätter’s trial that condemned him, Jägerstätter simply said: “The Bishop has not experienced the grace that has been granted to me.”


Jägerstätter shirt. On the back it has this quote by Jägerstätter : “I can say from my own experience how painful life often is when one lives as a halfway Christian; it is more like vegetating than living.”

Franz Jägerstätter was born on May 20, 1907 between Salzburg and Braunau am Inn as the illegitimate child of Rosalia Huber, a housemaid, and Franz Bachmeier, a farmer. Jägerstätter was only 15 months younger than German pastor, theologian, and anti-Nazi dissident, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was also murdered by the Nazis for his nonconformity. Franz was first cared for by his paternal grandmother, Elisabeth Huber.


Birthplace of Franz Jägerstätter. Born on May 20, 1907, Jägerstätter was an illegitimate child of a housemaid and a farmer.

After Franz’s father died in World War I, Rosalia married prosperous farmer Heinrich Jägerstätter in 1917 who adopted the boy. As Franz’s formal education ended when he was just 14 years old, it was out of necessity as much as pleasure that he remained an avid reader. “People who don’t read,” Jägerstätter quipped, “will never be able to stand on their own feet. They will all too easily become a football for the opinions of others.” Many in St. Radegund were impressed by this popular young man who rode a motorbike he bought in the mining town of Erzberg, Austria, with his earnings.


Franz Jägerstätter at 18 years old. The young man was an avid reader, worker, and motorcycle rider.

Working as a farmer in Teising, Germany and, in 1927, in the iron ore industry in Eisenerz, Austria, Jägerstätter returned to St. Radegund in 1930 where, in 1933, this “raufer” soon fathered an out-of-wedlock child. There was no question that 26-year-old Jägerstätter would not marry Theresia Auer, a working maid. At first he even disputed his paternity, but then helped care for both the mother and child (named Hildegard) and forged an affectionate lifelong father-daughter bond. This experience started Jägerstätter on a different path in life. His future wife, Franziska Schwaninger (1913–2013) of Hochburg, Austria, was working as a dairy and kitchen maid when in 1934, the 21-year-old Austrian woman met Jägerstätter at a local parish social. One of the first questions Franziska asked “raufer” Franz was whether he attended church. From the start of their relationship, her religiosity influenced him. Franz and Franziska were married on April 9, 1936, during Holy Week. Working as a farmer, in the next four years Jägerstätter and Franziska had three daughters. Franziska included Jägerstätter’s illegimate daughter as part of the family. After 1945, however, Hildegard lost contact with her half sisters. This family riff is attributed to their grandma Rosalia (Jägerstätter’s mother) who never liked Theresia Auer, Hildegard’s mother.


Wedding photograph of Franz and Franziska Jägerstätter in spring 1936. After their wedding they set out to Rome, Italy, and received Pius XI’s papal blessing. Within the year Pius XI published and had proclaimed from Catholic pulpits in Germany his encyclical Mit brennender Sorge (“With burning concern”) which condemned leading aspects of the Third Reich.

Franz Jägerstätter

The peasant mother of Franz Jägerstätter (left), his three daughters, Maria, Aloisia and Rosalia, and his wife, Franziska. Franziska sent this photograph to Franz on November 3, 1940 when he was in the military service (basic training) from October 1940 to April 1941. It was the town mayor who  obtained repeated deferments for Franz Jägerstätter.

Jägerstätter children

Photograph of Maria, Louisi and Rosi.

Jägerstätter 2007

In Austria in 2007 an American Benedictine sister (center) visits with her hosts, Aloisia and Richard Meier. Aloisia Meier was the youngest daughter of Blessed Franz Jägerstätter.

After many delays, Jägerstätter was finally called to active duty a  third time on February 23, 1943.  It was the day after Hans and Sophie Scholl were executed for high treason. Three weeks earlier, the German public was informed of the official surrender of the German Army at the Battle of Stalingrad. It marked the first time the Nazi government admitted to a failure in the war. Able-bodied Austrian farmer Jägerstätter reported to duty at Enns (Austria) on March 1, 1943 and promptly declared his mulled-over conscientious objection. The Nazis responded by putting him in jail. A priest from home visited him and repeated the advice to do his civic duty and come out of jail. Jägerstätter refused and was sent to Linz prison for the rest of March and April 1943 and then transferred to Tegel prison in the western suburbs of Berlin in May 1943. Incarcerated at Tegel in the same time period was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was there from his arrest on April 5, 1943 until October 1944. Bonhoeffer would be moved to Gestapo headquarters on Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse (today’s Niederkirchnerstrasse) in Berlin where he stayed until February 1945. Until Bonhoeffer’s execution by hanging at Flossenbuerg concentration camp on April 9, 1945, the theologian had been also transferred to Buchenwald concentration camp and to Regensburg. There is no known evidence that Franz Jägerstätter and Dietrich Bonhoeffer met one another at Tegel. Jägerstätter did learn at Tegel that a Catholic priest was executed as a conscientious objector citing reasons very much like his own. This single individual’s martyrdom brought a message of hope to Jägerstätter’s plight. Bonhoeffer wrote some of his best known letters at Tegel and Franz also sent missives.  In one letter to his wife Franziska he wrote: “Most beloved wife, today I received with joy your dear letter. Not a God or a church gives a commandment requiring that we must under a burden of sin commit ourselves in an oath to obeying the civil authorities in all matters. I cannot take an oath in favor of a government that is fighting an unjust war. The true Christian is to be recognized more in his deeds than in his speech. Let us love our enemies, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who persecute us. For love will conquer and endure for all eternity.”


Yard at Tegel prison in Berlin.


The sign Jägerstätter’s daughters hold reads: Lieber Vater komm bald! (Dear Father come [home] soon!). This is the photograph sent to 36-year-old Jägerstätter held in Tegel prison that brought him tears of joy.

About ten minutes by motor car from Tegal prison, in the period between August 1939 and February 7, 1945, the Reichskriegsgericht filed almost 1,200 sentences of capital punishment for various forms of treason, spying, resistance (frauen und männer des widerstand) and conscientious objection (kriegsdienstverweigerer)—and nearly 90% of these death sentences were carried out.  Accused by the Third Reich of undermining Wehrkraftzersetzung (or “military morale”) —as had been passive resisters Sophie Scholl (1921 – 22 February 1943) and other members of the White Rose — Franz Jägerstätter was found guilty at military trial at the Reichskriegsgericht, the highest German military court during the period of national socialism, and sentenced to death on July 6, 1943. Standing before the second panel of the national court martial led by Werner Lueven, Jägerstätter was “condemned to death for sedition” and, sentenced to loss of civil rights and of eligibility for military service, punitively cut off from society. The written judgment of the court is a summary of Jägerstätter’s path to conscientious objection. It reads: “In February 1943 the accused was again called up, by written command, for active service with motorized replacement unit 17 in Enns from 25 February 1943. At first he ignored the call-up, because he rejects National Socialism and therefore does not wish to do military service. Under pressure from relatives and the persuasion of his local priest, he finally reported on 1 March 1943 to the permanent company at motorized replacement unit 17 in Enns, but immediately announced that because of his religious views he refused to do armed military service. During questioning by the court officer, despite detailed instruction and advice as to the consequences of his conduct, he maintained his negative attitude. He explained that if he fought for the National Socialist state, he would be acting against his religious conscience. He also assumed this negative attitude during questioning by the court investigating officer of Division No. 487 in Linz, and by the representative of the national court martial. However, he declared himself willing to serve as a medical orderly as an act of Christian charity. At the main trial he repeated his statements and added that it was only during the last year he had reached the conviction that as a believing Catholic he could not perform military service and could not simultaneously be a National Socialist and a Catholic. That it was impossible. If he had obeyed the earlier call-up, he had done so because at that time because he had regarded it as sinful not to obey the commands of the state. Now God had made him think that it was not a sin to reject armed service, There were things over which one should obey God more than man. Because of the command ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself’ he could not fight with weapons. He was however prepared to serve as a medical orderly. The accused had already been a soldier for six months  (1940-41 call-up), had taken the oath of loyalty to the Führer and Supreme Commander of the Army, and during his period of service was amply informed about the duties of the German soldier. Nevertheless, despite being told about the consequences of his conduct, he stubbornly refuses for personal reasons to fulfill his patriotic duty in Germany’s hard struggle for survival. Accordingly, the death sentence is pronounced.”

Facade of Reichskriegsgericht, Berlin.

In this building at Witzlebenstrasse 5, Berlin, on July 6, 1943, the Austrian farmer Franz Jägerstätter was sentenced to death by the Supreme Military Court of the Third Reich (Reichskriegsgericht) on grounds of his conscientious objection to military service. In addition to dealing with various charges of treason, this building dealt with proceedings associated with Hitler’s “Night and Fog” decree. The order of December 7, 1941 directed that persons captured in occupied territories who acted to undermine German troops were to be taken “by night and fog” to Germany to face trial in special courts which could ignore procedures and conventions for a prisoner’s humane treatment.


Memorial sign outside today’s former Reichskriegsgericht building in Berlin.

Following his July 6, 1943 condemnation by the supreme military tribunal, Jägerstätter was given several weeks at Tegel to ponder his conscience’s perilous consequence. The Third Reich, desperate for manpower in 1943, allowed conscientious objectors to recant their objection unconditionally and be immediately assigned to a military probation unit. The practice of conscientious objection was relatively rare in Western societies prior to World War II. It was only after the military defeat of Hitler that the Catholic Church began to vocalize a mission to be a moral advocate in terms of social justice. Throughout World War II individuals like Jägerstätter but also Bonhoeffer, Hans and Sophie Scholl, Alfred Delp, S.J., Blessed Nikolaus Gross, Max Metzger, Erich Boch, Ernst Volkmann and others stood up for their faith as well as human rights and were executed as enemies of the state. In their lifetimes these martyrs’ actions received little to no sympathy from bishops or ordinary Catholics because social justice— including conscientious objection—was basically absent from standard church teaching. Even with the advent of democracy, there remained the church’s ancient teaching that governments derive their authority from God and citizens should obey them. However, the obvious illegitimacy of the Nazi regime despite legalities helped make religious sense of disobedience, refusal, and conscientious objection by Jägerstätter, Bonhoeffer, the Scholls, etc., who cited Biblical and philosophical truth and justice as greater than state authority—and, oftentimes, church authority. Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) proved sufficiently intrepid to try to get in front of this new spiritual juggernaut of social justice that had martyrs’ blood spilled upon it. On February 18, 1946 he appointed three new German Cardinals who had publicly opposed the Third Reich. Yet for the rest of this Germanophile pope’s time on the seat of Peter, the church’s goals and objectives for social justice remained vague and ambiguous.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (4 February 1906 – 9 April 1945). Lutheran pastor and theologian, it was after the failure of the July 20, 1944 plot on Hitler’s life—and discovery of Abwehr documents (Abwehr was a German military intelligence organization Bonhoeffer had joined) relating to the plot—that Bonhoeffer, already under Nazi arrest, was accused of conspiracy.  Bonhoeffer was executed by hanging at Konzentrationslager Flossenbürg on April 9, 1945, just two weeks before the camp was liberated by American soldiers.


Hans Scholl (German, 22 September 1918 – 22 February 1943) and Sophie Scholl (German, 9 May 1921 – 22 February 1943). Upon distributing anti-Nazi political resistance leaflets on February 18, 1943 at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, students Sophie Scholl, Hans Scholl and Christoph Probst were immediately arrested. On February 22, 1943 they were tried in the Volksgerichtshof and found guilty of high treason. They were executed by beheading the same day.

Alfred Delp

Alfred Delp, S.J. (German, 15 September 1907 – Berlin, 2 February 1945) was a member of the Kreisauer Kreis composed of men and women from a variety of backgrounds who were opposed to Hitler’s Nazi regime. Delp was arrested in 1944, sentenced to death and executed in 1945. Delp’s book Facing Death, written during his six months imprisonment has been compared to Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison.


Blessed Nikolaus Gross (German, 30 September 1898 – 23 January 1945) and Elizabeth Koch Gross (March 11, 1901-February 21, 1971). An anti-Nazi journalist, Nikolaus Gross was arrested on August 12, 1944 in connection with the failed plot to kill Hitler at the Wolf’s Lair (July 20, 1944). In September 1944 he was taken to Tegel prison where Elizabeth visited him twice and saw torture markings on his body.  Gross was hanged on January  23, 1945 at Plötzensee Prison.


Servant of God Eugen Bolz (German, 15 December 1881 – 23 January 1945) was a politician and member of the resistance to the Nazi régime. Bolz had been Protestant Württemberg’s first Catholic president when the Nazis came to power in 1933. Since Bolz loathed the Nazis, they immediately forced him from office and sent him to a concentration camp. When he was released, Bolz went into semi-retirement near Ulm, where he was constantly monitored by the Gestapo. In 1942 Bolz secretly accepted the post of Culture Minister in a shadow German “government in waiting” ready to replace Hitler. But when the plot to kill Hitler failed on July 20, 1944, Bolz was arrested where he was tried and, on January 23, 1945,  beheaded at Plötzensee Prison.


Max Metzger (German, 3 February 1887 – 17 April 1944) was  a Catholic priest and longtime peace activist in Germany. After Hitler came to power in 1933, Metzger was arrested many times by the Gestapo. A pamphlet writer, his 1943 essay on German state reorganization in a post-war world was given to a courier who betrayed him.  Metzger was arrested on June 29, 1943. The presiding judge at his trial said Metzger and people like him should be “eradicated.” Fr. Metzger was executed in Brandenburg prison on April 17, 1944.  

Father Franz Reinisch

Franz Reinisch (1903-1942), an Austrian Catholic priest, was conscripted for military service in the Third Reich on September 12, 1941. Reinisch refused to swear allegiance to Hitler but publicly noted he would swear allegiance to the German people so to join the Wehrmacht. Reinisch was arrested and charged with undermining military morale. Brought to Tegel, a prison chaplain denied Reinisch communion for failure to perform his civic duty. Tried and convicted, Reinisch was moved to Brandenburg in Berlin where he was beheaded by guillotine on August 21, 1942.


Pope Francis with a portrait of Franz Reinisch.


Ernst Volkmann (1902-1941). Ernst Volkmann had to die because he refused to fight for Nazi Germany on religious grounds. In 1929, he married Maria Handle from Bregenz, Austria, with whom he had three children. He ignored all Wehrmacht conscription orders, which is why Ernst Volkmann was arrested in June 1940. The Berlin court sentenced him to death on July 7, 1941. A month later on August 9, at 5:05 am, Ernst Volkmann was beheaded in the Brandenburg-Görden prison.


Almost immediately after the war was over, Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) appointed three German bishops to be Cardinals who had publicly defied the Third Reich. These were Blessed Clemens August Graf von Galen (16 March 1878 – 22 March 1946), Konrad Maria von Preysing (30 August 1880 – 21 December 1950) and Josef Frings (6 February 1887 – 17 December 1978). A fuller development for social justice as a mission of the church would need to wait for future popes.

In his last letter written from Brandenburg-Görden prison where he was executed on August 9, 1943, Jägerstätter wrote these words: “Now I’ll write down a few words as they come to me from my heart. Although I am writing them with my hands in chains, this is still much better than if my will were in chains. Neither prison nor chains nor sentence of death can rob a man of the Faith and his free will. God gives so much strength that it is possible to bear any suffering…. People worry about the obligations of conscience as they concern my wife and children. But I cannot believe that, just because one has a wife and children, a man is free to offend God.”

Jägerstätter was then led out to the executioner’s guillotine and beheaded on August 9, 1943. Franziska did not learn of her husband’s death until about a month later. She had sent him a letter in early September 1943 but the response came from the prison chaplains at Tegel and Brandenburg who informed her of his death. Sometime after that, Franziska received the official announcement of the execution of her husband, together with his last letter, from the Nazis.

Franz Jägerstätter’s final essay

First page of Franz Jägerstätter’s final essay written in prison. The first sentence reads: “Now I’ll write down a few words as they come to me from my heart. Although I am writing them with my hands in chains, this is still much better than if it were my will in chains.”


Thomas Merton was influenced by the life of Franz Jägerstätter. Merton included a chapter on Jägerstätter in his popular 1968 book Faith and Violence (University of Notre Dame Press – available in several reprinted editions).

Gordon Zahn (1918-2007) from Loyola University in Chicago, wrote A Solitary Witness: The Life and Death of Franz Jägerstätter in 1964. Zahn was a conscientious objector during the World War II who related that one of the great moments of his life was when he heard a student during the Vietnam War say he was burning his draft card “in memory of Franz Jägerstätter.” Zahn was a guiding light in the Catholic peace movement as a co-founder of Pax Christi USA. Today Pax Christi focuses on human rights and security, disarmament and demilitarization, a just world order and religion and peace. Its president Kevin Patrick Dowling, a South African Redemptorist. Its website:

The Refusal (Der Fall) is a 94 minute-dramatized film about Franz Jägerstätter. Directed by Alex Corti with a screenplay by Hellmut Kindler, it stars Kurt Weinzierl and
Julia Gschnitzer as Franz and Franziska Jägerstätter. It was originally released in (West) Germany in 1971. Villagers are interviewed almost 30 years later.

Der Fall Jägerstätter

Kurt Weinzierl (Franz Jägerstätter), Michael Janisch (Corporal) in The Refusal.


Reading – Romans 6:19-23

Brothers and sisters:
I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your nature.
For just as you presented the parts of your bodies as slaves to impurity
and to lawlessness for lawlessness,
so now present them as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free from righteousness.
But what profit did you get then
from the things of which you are now ashamed?
For the end of those things is death.
But now that you have been freed from sin and have become slaves of God,
the benefit that you have leads to sanctification,
and its end is eternal life.
For the wages of sin is death,
but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 1:1-2,3,4, and 6.

R. (Ps 40:5) Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
Blessed the man who follows not
the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on his law day and night.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
He is like a tree
planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever he does, prospers.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
Not so the wicked, not so;
they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
For the LORD watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.

Alleluia-Philippians 3:8-9

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I consider all things so much rubbish
that I may gain Christ and be found in him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel – Luke 12:49-53

Jesus said to his disciples:
“I have come to set the earth on fire,
and how I wish it were already blazing!
There is a baptism with which I must be baptized,
and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division.
From now on a household of five will be divided,
three against two and two against three;
a father will be divided against his son
and a son against his father,
a mother against her daughter
and a daughter against her mother,
a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”


Grave of Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, St. Radegund, Austria.


Blessed Franz Jägerstätter icon: On the path to Catholic sainthood. Patron of Conscientious Objectors.

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.


Pope Francis TED Speech, April 2017 – – Web. – retrieved October 26, 2017.

Gordon Zahn, A Solitary Witness: The Life and Death of Franz Jägerstätter, Templegate Publications; revised edition, 1986.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics,The Macmillan Company, New York, 1968.

Diözese Linz, Franz Jägerstätter 1907 – 1943 – Martyr, Katholische Kirche in Oberösterreich, n.d. Web. – retrieved October 26, 2017.

H. Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture, Harper & Row Publishers, NY, 1975.

Robert A. Krieg, Catholic Theologians in Nazi Germany, Continuum, NY, 2004.

Martin Conway, Catholic Politics in Europe, 1918-1945, Routledge, 1997.

Walter M. Abbott, S.J., The Documents of Vatican II, Guild Press, NY, 1966.

The Holy See, The Vatican, n.d, Bl. Franz Jägerstätter (1907-1943) – Biography. Web. – retrieved October 26, 2017.

Eran Putz, Franz Jägerstätter Martyr – A Shining Example in Dark Times, Grünbach: Steinmassl, 2007, Print and Web. – retrieved October 26, 2017.

Footnotes will be made available on request.


St. Francis of Assisi and the Leper.


By John P. Walsh

October 4, 2017.

A dramatic scene (4:52 minutes) in Roberto Rossellini’s 1950 Italian film Francesco, giullare di Dio (translated in English as Francis, God’s Jester or, more commonly, as The Flowers of St. Francis) shows St. Francis of Assisi (c. 1181/2-1226) seeking out and embracing a leper. Francis then falls to the ground and, from the depths of his being, he utters in tears: “My God. My Lord and my all!  O great God!”

While this event is dramatized in Rossellini’s film after Francis’s brotherhood is established, it occurred in history nearer the beginning of the Italian saint’s conversion.  In Francis’s own Testament written in 1225—one year before his death at 44 or 45 years old—the saint stated his embrace of the leper became the cause of his conversion. As Francis put it he “exercised mercy” to the leper not because he had been converted but that the leper— a common sight in medieval Europe and one that filled Francis with horror whenever he came upon one—became the astonishing means for his conversion.

In the thirteenth century in Europe, lepers by law had to live apart from the rest of society owing to their contagious infectious disease. Yet from at least the seventh century in Italy onward there was special orders of knights who took care of them. For a rich young man such as Francis seeking glory in military arms, he naturally despised this dastardly contagion and diligently avoided lepers. In the time period that Rossellini’s poignant film scene is set— it is either 1205 or 1206—there existed tens of thousands of church-run leper “hospitals” in Europe including one that was only a short walk outside Assisi’s town walls called San Salvatore delle Pareti.

Before this famous encounter of embracing the leper in the life of St. Francis, Francis, who was around 24 years old, had worked up to the crucial moment only gradually. After he had given up his several quests to be a soldier and returned to Assisi for good, he was welcomed back by his family and friends.  But for the same reasons that he abandoned his military career before it even started, these also prompted him to walk tentatively out of Assisi along the road to the leper hospital (whose site today is a farm field) to interact with its challenging pastoral activity of caring for these patients which stretched back 600 years to Pope Gregory the Great (540-604).  Sometimes it was the sickening smell peculiar to the leper hospital that would waft into Francis’s nostrils and make him flee. Other times, young Francis—who by now was living mostly as a hermit— after venturing to the leper hospital to give them a charitable gift vanished as bell-clanging patients appeared. He left his gift on the roadside because he did not desire to come into any closer quarters with these outcasts.

It took much more time, effort and prayers in solitude which Francis believed were eventually answered by God until he discovered his courage and confidence to embrace a leper as dramatized in Rossellini’s film.  Following a lifetime spent in heroic Franciscan mendicancy, the now world-famous Umbrian saint proclaimed that it was at this moment—as he conquered his fears and embraced the other in love no matter how apparently godforsaken—that his life in and for God truly started.

SOURCE: St Francis of Assisi: A Biography by Johannes Jørgensen (1912). Translated from the Danish with the author’s sanction by T. O’Conor Sloane, Image books, 1955.

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

Marcus Gheeraerts II, a complete collection of his signed, dated, documented and inscribed works, featuring his Captain Thomas Lee in Irish Dress, oil on canvas, 1594, in Tate Britain. (33 paintings).

Text and captions by John P. Walsh.

Captain Thomas Lee (c.1551-1601) had his portrait painted by 33-year-old Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger (Bruges, 1561-1636) in London in 1594. Captain Lee was 43 years old and had worked as a military adventurer for English colonization in Ireland since the early 1570s. The young artist was the son of Gheeraerts the Elder, a painter and printmaker associated with the Tudor court starting in the late 1560s and into the 1570s. Fleeing religious persecution in Flanders, Gheeraerts the Elder (c. 1520 – c. 1590) arrived into England with his 7-year-old son Marcus in 1568. By 1594, when the portrait of Captain Lee was made, Gheeraerts the Younger was already a rising young contemporary artist working in Elizabeth I’s Tudor court (Gheeraerts the Elder had likely returned to Flanders in 1577). Sir Roy Strong, the English art historian who served as director of both the National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London is unequivocal about Gheeraerts the Younger’s artistic importance to English art history when he wrote that Gheeraerts is “the most important artist of quality to work in England in large-scale between (Hans) Eworth (c. 1520 – 1574) and (Anthony) van Dyck (1599-1641).”1 In addition to a discussion of the featured early painting of Captain Lee, a complete collection of Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger’s 33 signed and dated works, documented and dated works, inscribed and dated works, and inscribed and undated works is included in this post following this introduction.

At 22 years old in 1583, Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger’s world in and around London was ideally enclosed by marriage to the sister of talented Tudor court painter John De Critz (c.1555-c.1641). De Critz, like his new brother-in-law Gheeraerts the Younger, was a child expatriate from Flanders to England in 1568.2 In 1571 Gheeraerts the Elder had married his son’s future wife’s sister, making father and son Gheeraerts also eventually brothers-in law.3 Over two decades later, in 1602, Gheeraerts the Younger’s sister married the court artist Isaac Oliver (c.1565-1617).4 This was typical social behavior at the Tudor court where many active artists were connected by ties of marriage, family, and artistic training as well as shared European origin. In Gheeraerts the Younger’s circle, for instance, John De Critz was apprenticed to the wealthy portrait painter Lucas de Heere (1534-1584) who may also have helped train Gheeraerts the Younger.  De Heere – like Gheeraerts the Younger and De Critz – was a religious refugee to England from Flanders. Isaac Oliver, Gheeraerts the Younger’s other brother-in-law, studied under leading Tudor portrait miniaturist and goldsmith Nicholas Hilliard (c.1547-1619) 5 Roy Strong links Hilliard to Gheeraerts by way of the supreme artistic quality found in both of these contrasting artists’ masterpieces.6 One remarkable technical innovation that the young artist applied in his portraits was the use of stretched canvas in place of wood panel that allowed for larger and lighter surface areas on which to paint and more easily transport pictures of the grand gentlemen and ladies of the time.

By way of marriage to an Irish Catholic woman, Captain Thomas Lee became a man of considerable property in Ireland but had separated from his wife by the time of this portrait. The next year – in 1595 – Lee remarried an Englishwoman. Over the decades, Captain Lee’s military reputation became one of an enfant terrible which did not mellow over time. Rather it would be powerful friends who looked to explain Thomas’s frequent reckless political and military behavior as a justifiable occupational hazard of the longtime soldier in Ireland. Lee posed for Gheeraerts when the captain was straight off the battlefield from Ulster chieftain Aodh Mag Uidhir (Hugh Maguire, d. 1600) and in London for delicate negotiations. To presumably express Thomas’s faithful service to the Crown, the portrait includes a Latin inscription in the tree that refers to Mucius Scaevola (c. 500 BC), an ancient perhaps mythical Roman fighter who remained loyal to Rome even after he was captured by mortal enemies.  Thomas was related to Sir Henry Lee – they were paternal half cousins. Sir Henry up until his recent retirement in 1590 (though still active and influential in political affairs) was Elizabeth I’s Champion for nearly a quarter of a century and the creator of the stunning imagery included in her publicly-popular Accession Day festivals that Sir Henry annually planned. Along with Gheerearts the Younger’s Elizabethan allegorical portrait Lady in Fancy Dress (The Persian Lady) (#30 below) as well as the Ditchley portrait of Queen Elizabeth I (#31 below)both painted in the early 1590s, Henry may have helped devise the symbolism in Captain Lee’s portrait which also came from Ditchley – Sir Henry Lee’s timber-framed family house set in north Oxfordshire wooded farmland– around that same time. While the painting’s landscape where Captain Lee stands is likely a representation of Ireland’s wild landscape, Henry Lee’s symbolism may provide other more subtle and humorous features. Troublesome Thomas, for example, stands under an oak, which may refer to Sir Henry’s political protection but also that these trees are prone to dangerous lightning strikes. The final seven years of Captain Thomas Lee’s life iterated this legendary standard: at times negotiating with or killing Irish enemies he also served time in prison in Ireland on a charge of treason. Ultimately, Sir Henry could not save his familial junior – Thomas faced execution in England for treason against Elizabeth I in 1601.

English power became increasingly absolute in 17th century Ireland.  In the 1590’s, the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland believed turning their backs on the mostly Catholic natives was the most effective governing strategy. While an oath of allegiance to the Crown remained law to divest Irish rebels of their property to English rule, it was not vigorously applied until the arrival in 1604 into Ireland of Lord Deputy Arthur Chichester (1563-1625) and thereafter. The 1590’s continued to implement England’s new plantation system in Ireland which amounted to confiscating Irish property for English and Scottish settlers. While this provided quick and lucrative rewards for the conquerors, the political situation was not free of ambiguity. English laws were attacked by Irish chiefs seeking protection under older common law. Protestant settlers had their own uneasy relationship with the English Crown who, in turn, fought a tug of war with an English Parliament. About half of settlers in Ulster were Presbyterians who were dissenters from the English church at war with Anglo- and Gaelic Irish Catholics. Moreover, London viewed new Protestant landowners in Ireland – such as Captain Thomas Lee – with as much, if not more, suspicion as despoiled Catholics. The Crown believed that the new Protestant vanguard in Ireland had the power to usurp the island’s treasure more readily than pillaged Catholics who could, ironically perhaps, be better disposed to the idea of royal governance.7

While Thomas Lee’s special status is expressed in the painting’s lace embroidery on his rolled-up shirt and inlaid pistol and Northern Italian-made helmet, the Captain is dressed as a common foot-soldier who traveled through Ireland barelegged (which in itself is humorous and serious) and lightly armed. Sir Henry must have been one of Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger’s earliest patrons, as the Ditchley collection had several portraits which can be ascribed to him.8


  1. Strong, Roy, The English Icon: Elizabethan & Jacobean Portraiture, The Paul Mellon Foundation for British Art London Routledge and Kegan Paul Limited New Haven Yale University Press, 1969, p.22.
  2. Ibid. p.259.
  3. Hearn, Karen, Marcus Gheeraerts II: Elizabethan Artist, In Focus (Tate Publishing), 2003, p. 11ff.
  4. Strong, p.269.
  5. Hearn, p.130.
  6. Strong, p.23.
  7. See Roger Chauviré, A Short History of Ireland, New American Library, 1965; T.W. Moody & F.X. Martin, editors, The Course of Irish History, Mercier Press, Cork, 1978; – retrieved May 28, 2017.
  8. The Captain Thomas Lee portrait was first recorded at Ditchley by Vertue in 1725 who noted there a portrait of ‘Lee in Highlanders Habit leggs naked a target & head piece on his left hand his right a spear or pike. Ætatis suae.43.ano.Dni 1594’.


Louis Frederick, Duke of Württemberg, 1608.

1. Marcus Gheeraerts The Younger, Louis Frederick, Duke of Württemberg, 1608, oil on canvas, 225.1 x 113.1 cm, St James Palace. Probably painted for James I though first recorded in Charles II’s collection. (Strong 255, The English Icon). Gheeraerts II painted portraits of several foreign dignitaries on their visits to the English court. Louis Frederick, Duke of Württemberg visited James I in London for three months in the latter part of 1608 and likely the artist produced this work at that time.

Gheeraerts the Younger Wm Camden 1609
2. Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, William Camden, 1609, oil of panel,, 76.2.x 58.5 cm, Bodleian Library, Oxford. Given to the Schools by Camden Professor (1622-1647) Degory Whear. (Strong 256).
Gheeraerts the Younger, Lucy Davis. 1623. Private collection.
3. Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Lucy Davis, Countess of Huntingdon, 1623, oil on panel, 76.8 x 62.3 cm, Private Collection. (Strong 257).
Marcus_Gheeraerts_the_Younger_William_Pope,_1st_Earl_of_Downe, 1624
4. Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, William Pope, 1st Earl of Downe, 1624, oil on panel, 62.3.x 47.1 cm, Trinity College, University of Oxford. It was presented to Trinity College in 1813 by Henry Kett. (Strong 258).
Gheeraerts the Younger, Elizabeth Cherry, Lady Russell, 1625.
5. Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Elizabeth Cherry, Lady Russell, 1625, oil on canvas, 194.5 x 105.6 cm, The Duke of Bedford. This painting has been at Woburn Abbey since 1625. (Strong 259).
Gheeraerts the Younger Sir William Russell, 1625
6. Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Sir William Russell, 1625, oil on canvas, 195.6 x 111.8 cm, The Duke of Bedford. Always at Woburn Abbey. (Strong 260).
Gheeraerts the Younger, Richard Tomlins, 1628.
7. Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Richard Tomlins, 1628, oil on panel, 111.8 x 83.9 cm. The Bodleian Library, Oxford. It was in the Library in 1759. (Strong 261).
8. Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Anne Hale, Mrs. Hoskins, 1629, oil on panel, 111.8 x 82.7 cm. Jack Hoskins Master, Esq. The painting remains in the family. (Strong 262). 


Gheeraerts_Barbara_Gamage_with_Six_Children 1596
9. Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Barbara Gamage, Countess of Leicester, and her children, 1596, oil on canvas, 203.2 x 260.3 cm, The Viscount De L’Isle. Always at Penshurst Place near Tonbridge, Kent, 32 miles southeast of London; first recorded 1623. (Strong 263).
10. Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, William, 2nd Lord Petre, 1599, oil on panel. 111.8 x The Lord Petre; custody of the Essex County Record Office. (Strong 264).
Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Katherine Somerset, Lady Petre, 1599.
11. Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Katherine Somerset, Lady Petre, 1599, oil on panel, 111.8 x 90.2 cm. The Lord Petre. Always at Ingatestone Hall, the 16th century manor of the Barons Petre in Essex, England. Queen Elizabeth I spent several nights there in 1561. (Strong 265).


# 12 800px-Marcus_Gheeraerts_II_-_Portrait_of_Mary_Rogers,_Lady_Harington_-_Google_Art_Project
12. Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Unknown Lady (Mary Rogers, Lady Harington), 1593, oil on panel, 114.3 x 94 cm, Tate (purchased 1974). The identity for the sitter is speculative, although her age (23 years old) is inscribed. It is one of the earliest known portraits by Gheeraerts. (Strong 266).
Unknown Lady (Mary Rogers, Lady Harington), 1593

12a. Detail, Unknown Lady (Mary Rogers, Lady Harington), 1593. The sitter is identified in part by the clothes she wears: the distinctive black and white pattern on her dress heralds the Harington coat of arms. The sitter is 23 years old and her portrait may have been painted in connection with a visit to Kelston (The Harington homestead) in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth. The Latin inscription in the painting reads, “I may neither make nor break” a dramatic phrase whose meaning is no longer clear.

Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Captain Thomas Lee in Irish Dress, 1594.
13. Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Captain Thomas Lee in Irish Dress, oil on canvas, 1594 (purchased 1980), Tate Britain. (Strong 267).
Captain Thomas Lee in Irish Dress, 1594.

13a. Detail, Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Captain Thomas Lee in Irish Dress, oil on canvas, 1594, Tate Britain.

si francis drake 001 FIXED
14. Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Sir Francis Drake, 1594, oil on canvas, 137.1 x 114.3 cm, private collection. Knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1581, Sir Francis Drake, vice admiral (c. 1540 – 1596), circumnavigated the globe in a single expedition between 1577 and 1580. Drake was second-in-command of the English fleet against the Spanish Armada in 1588. Though he opened up the Pacific Ocean to European trade, Drake’s seafaring career ended in his mid-fifties when he died of dysentery following a failed attack on Spain’s Puerto Rico in 1596.  (Strong 268).
Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Unknown Man, 1599.
15. Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Unknown Man (Called the Earl of Southampton), 1599, location unknown. (Strong 269).
Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Unknown Lady, 1600.
16. Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Unknown Lady, 1600, oil on panel, The Lord Talbot de Malhide. (Strong 270).
Sir Henry Lee by Marcus Gheeraerts Tate Britain, 1600
17. Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Sir Henry Lee, oil on canvas, 1600, private collection on loan since 2008 to Tate Britain. Sir Henry Lee (1533–1611) was a Tudor Court favorite under Elizabeth I, appointed as Queen’s Champion and Master of the Armoury. Sir Henry organised the annual public Accession Day festivals in honor of the queen and commissioned the famous Ditchley portrait of Elizabeth I by Gheeraerts for his house at Ditchley in Oxfordshire. In 1597 he was made a Knight of the Garter and in the painting wears that order’s gold chain and bejeweled medal of St George slaying the dragon. (Strong 271).
Sir Henry Lee in Garter Robes, 1602.

18. Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Sir Henry Lee in Garter Robes, 1602, oil on canvas, 216.2 x 137.2 cm. Always at Ditchley until 1933. Today at The Armourers & Brasiers’ Company of the City of London. Founded in 1322, the livery company was awarded its first Royal Charter in 1453 from King Henry VI. In 1708 the Armourers joined with the Brasiers and received its current charter from Queen Anne. (Strong 272).

Sir Henry Lee in Garter Robes, 1602 (detail).

18a. Detail, Sir Henry Lee in Garter Robes, 1602. One of Gheeraerts II’s finest portraits, Sir Henry Lee is a former man of action, whose old head is remarkably shrewd.

Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Christophe de Harlay, Comte de Beaumont, 1605.
19. Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Christophe de Harlay, Comte de Beaumont, 1605, oil on canvas, The Marquess of Salibury. The Comte de Beaumont was the French ambassador to England at a time when the Kings of England and France were looking in their own ways for a diplomatic solution to the religious controversies in Europe. The painting was made for Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, a politician who had won James I’s trust. (Strong 273).
Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Alexander Seton 1st Earl of Dunfermline, 1606.
20. Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Alexander Seton 1st Earl of Dunfermline, 1606. Alexander Seton, 1st Earl of Dunfermline (1555–1622), a Scot, was regarded as one of the finest legal minds of his time. Seton served as Lord President of the Court of Session (top judge) from 1593 to 1604, Lord Chancellor of Scotland (top presiding officer of state) from 1604 to 1622 and Lord High Commissioner to the Scottish Parliament. (Strong 274).
Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Anne of Denmark, 1614
21. Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Anne of Denmark, 1614, oil on panel, 109.4 x 87.3 cm, Windsor Castle. Anne married a future James I of England in 1589 at age 15. The Queen consort bore James three children who survived infancy, including the future Charles I (reigned 1625-1649). Once fascinated with his bride, observers regularly noted incidents of marital discord between the dour and ambitious James and his independent and self-indulgent wife. Before she died in 1619 the royal couple led mainly separate lives. (Strong 275).
Gheeraerts the Younger, Ulrik, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein, 1614.
22. Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Ulrik, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein, 1614, oil on canvas, 211.2 x 114.3 cm, The Duke of Bedford. Prince Ulrik of Denmark, (1578 – 1624) was the second son of King Frederick II of Denmark and his consort, Sophie of Mecklenburg-Güstrow. As second-born Ulrick bore the merely titular rank of Duke of Holstein and Schleswig although he later became Administrator of Schwerin. After his sister Anne became Queen of England, Ulrik was godfather to Princess Mary. (Strong 276).
Gheeraerts the Younger, Sir John Kennedy, 1614.
23. Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Sir John Kennedy, oil on canvas, 1614, The Duke of Bedford. Immediately after James I’s accession Elizabeth Brydges – Maid of Honour of Queen Elizabeth I – married Sir John Kennedy, one of the king’s Scotch attendants, at Sudeley Manor, Gloucestershire, England. Chandos appears to have opposed the match, and it was rumored early in 1604 that Kennedy had a wife living in Scotland. But James I wrote to Chandos (19 Feb 1603/4) entreating him to overlook Sir John’s errors because of his own love for his attendant. Elizabeth apparently left her husband and desired to have the matter legally examined, but as late as 1609 the lawfulness of the marriage had not been decided upon. Lord Chandos declined to aid his cousin, and Sir John Kennedy’s wife died deserted and in poverty in 1617. (Strong 277).
Gheeraerts the Younger, Catherine Killigrew Lady Jermyn, 1614.
24. Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Catherine Killigrew, Lady Jermyn, 1614, oil on panel, 73.7 x 57.2 cm, Yale Center for British Art. (Strong 278). Catherine Killigrew was 35 years old when she sat for this portrait. The wife of a MP, and mother of three children,  Catherine was the daughter of Sir William Killigrew (d. 1622) who was a courtier to Queen Elizabeth I and to King James I. Sir William served as Groom of the Privy Chamber. (Strong 278).
Gheeraerts the Younger, Probably Mary (née Throckmorton), Lady Scudamore, oil on panel, 1615.
25. Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Probably Mary (née Throckmorton), Lady Scudamore, oil on panel, 1615, 45 in. x 32 1/2 in. (1143 mm x 826 mm), National Portrait Gallery, London, purchased 1859. The sitter, once identified wrongly as the Countess of Pembroke, is probably Lady Scudamore about whom little is known. The portrait is likely for the occasion of her son’s marriage (John, later Viscount Scudamore) to Elizabeth Porter of Dauntsey, Wiltshire. The inscribed motto ‘No Spring Till now’, and wreath of flowers suggest the hope that this marriage must have represented within the family. (Strong 279).
Gheeraerts the Younger, Sir Henry Savile, 1621.
26. Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Sir Henry Savile, 1621, 216.2 x 127 cm, Bodleian Library, Oxford. Gift from the sitter’s widow, 1622. Sir Henry Savile (1549-1622) was an enterprising Bible scholar. When he did not qualify for the role of Provost of Eton, he had Queen Elizabeth I waive the college’s rules for him. As Warden of Merton – a post secured with the help of influential friends – he was unpopular with students and faculty but the college itself flourished. Sir Henry’s brother was a powerful lawyer who helped guide his brother’s career which included knighthood in 1604. (Strong 280).
Gheeraerts the Younger, Sir Henry Savile, 1621.
27. Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Sir Henry Savile, 1621, oil on canvas, 1621, 203.7 x 122 cm, Eton College. A second smaller copy of Bible scholar and administrator Sir Henry Savile. (Strong 281).
Gheeraerts the Younger, William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, 1628.
28. Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, 1628, oil on panel, 68.5 x 48.2 cm, Philip Yorke. William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke (1580 –1630), founded Pembroke College, Oxford, under James I’s tutelage, in 1624. The year before, in 1623, the First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays had been dedicated to him and his brother Philip Herbert, Earl of Montgomery (the later 4th Earl of Pembroke). A bookish man, following failed marriage negotiations over the dowry payment, the 3rd Earl of Pembroke impregnated a mistress at court who he then refused to marry. He eventually married in 1604 but had an extra-marital affair with a cousin that produced two illegitimate children. A patron of the arts, William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke died suddenly at 50 years old in 1630 and was buried in Salisbury Cathedral in the family vault at the foot of the altar.  (Strong 282)
Gheeraerts the Younger, Charles Hoskins, 1629.
29. Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Charles Hoskins, 1629, oil on panel, 66.1 x 52.7 cm, Jack Hoskins Master. Esq. (Strong 283).
Gheeraerts the Younger, Lady in Fancy dress (the Persian Lady), 1590.
30. Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Lady in Fancy Dress (The Persian Lady), 1590s, oil on panel, 216.5 x 135.3 cm, Hampton Court. first recorded in the collection of Queen Anne but believed to be part of the Royal Collection before that time. In the cartouche a sonnet reads: “The restless swallow fits my restless minde, Instill revivinge still renewinge wronges; her Just complaintes of cruelty unkinde, are all the Musique, that my life prolonges. With pensive thoughtes my weeping Stagg I crowne whose Melancholy teares my cares Expresse; hes Teares in sylence, and my sighes unknowne are all the physicke that my harmes redresse. My only hope was in this goodly tree, which I did plant in love bringe up in care: but all in vaine, for now to late I see the shales be mine, the kernels others are. My Musique may be plaintes, my physique teares If this be all the fruite my love tree beares.” Portrait of a Woman is a good example of Elizabethan allegorical portraiture. Importantly, the painting may be related to the Ditchley portrait of Elizabeth I (Strong 285) as well as the portrait of Captain Thomas Lee (Strong 267 ). How may these three portraits be connected to an entertainment given by Sir Henry Lee, the Queen’s Master of the Armouries and Champion of the Tilt, when the Queen visited Ditchley in 1592? (Strong 284).
NPG 2561; Queen Elizabeth I ('The Ditchley portrait') by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger
31. Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Queen Elizabeth I (“The Ditchley Portrait”), oil on canvas, 1592, 95 in. x 60 in. (2413 mm x 1524 mm). National Portrait Gallery, London. Bequeathed by Harold Lee-Dillon, 17th Viscount Dillon, 1932. Queen Elizabeth was nearly 60 years old when this portrait was made. It is traditionally understood to have been painted on the Queen’s visit to Ditchley, the timber-framed family house set in north Oxfordshire wooded farmland of Sir Henry Lee (1533-1611). Like John II Walshe (d.1546/7) of Little Sodbury, Gloucestershire, who was King’s Champion to Elizabeth’s father Henry VIII, Henry Lee served at that standard for Queen Elizabeth from 1570 until his retirement about two years before this painting was made. Ditchley once provided lodging and access to the royal hunting ground of Wychwood Forest.  (Strong 285). 
ditchley a-elizdetail-1g
Queen Elizabeth I is standing on a map of England.
Detailed study of the beautiful garment and accessories.
Detail of garment and accessories in The Ditchley Portrait.
ditchley detail fan
A bejeweled fan in Queen Elizabeth I’s right hand. Detail from The Ditchley Portrait of 1592 by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger. In the decade before The Ditchley Portrait the artist’s father,  Gheeraerts the Elder, had painted a full- length oil on panel portrait of Elizabeth I. In the ensuing handful of years practical technical innovation in art is in evidence in the Elizabethan court: for the son’s oil portrait of the same royal personage was produced on canvas on a much larger scale.   
ditchley 800px-queen_elizabeth_i_the_ditchley_portrait_by_marcus_gheeraerts_the_younger
Queen Elizabeth I. Ditchley portrait detail. The three fragmentary Latin inscriptions in the painting have been interpreted as: “She gives and does not expect”; “She can, but does not take revenge”; and, “In giving back, she increases.” An inscribed sonnet, whose author is not known, takes the sun as its subject. At some later date the canvas was cut more than 7 centimeters fragmenting the final words of the each line. 
Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Sir Henry Lee, 1590s.
32. Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Sir Henry Lee, 1590s, oil on canvas, 117 x 86.4 cm, The Ditchley Foundation. Always at Ditchley. The painting and inscribed verses memoralize an incident where Bevis – Lee’s dog – saved his master’s life. “More faithfull then favoured…” (Strong 286).
Michael Dormer, mid 1590s.

33. Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Michael Dormer, mid 1590s, oil on canvas, 122 x 91.5 cm, J.C. H. Dunlop, Esq. There are Latin inscriptions which surround and are written across the globe and shield. (Strong 287). The world of Sir Henry Lee bears down again on the young artist’s portrait of Michael Dormer, an Oxfordshire neighbor to Sir Henry.  In Dormer’s three-quarter-length portrait, the right hand is posed similarly to Thomas Lee’s portrait. As that portrait is the ostensible centerpiece of this discussion, we have traveled full circle through Gheeraerts II’s verifiable portraiture in Elizabethan and Jacobean England.

Here then concludes the complete collection of Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger’s signed and dated works (Strong 255-262); inscribed and dated works (Strong 266-283); and, inscribed and undated works (Strong 284-287). Not included here are works dated and attributed to the artist (Strong 288-294) and attributed and undated (Strong 295-313). The last group includes several well-known portraits including William Cecil, Lord Burghley, c. 1595, in the National Portrait Gallery (Strong 295) and Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, c. 1596, in collection of the Duke of Bedford. (Strong 300).


Strong 255 – Hearn, Karen, Marcus Gheeraerts II, Elizabethan Artist (In Focus series), Tate Publishing, 2002, p. 29.

Strong 264 and 265 –

Strong 266-

Strong 271-

Strong 272-

Strong 277 – BRYDGES (C. Bedford)

Strong 278-

Strong 279 –

Strong 280 –;  White, Henry Julian (1906). Merton College, Oxford. pp. 93–94;;;

Strong 284 –;;;

STRONG 285 – John II Walshe (d.1546/7) of Little Sodbury, Gloucestershire, was King’s Champion at the coronation of Henry VIII in 1509 and was a great favorite of the young king’s. Transactions of the Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, Vol.13, 188/9, pp. 1–5, Little Sodbury”. Archived from the original on March 16, 2012. Retrieved 2012-03-19; Sir H Lee – Butler, Katherine (2015). Music in Elizabethan Court Politics. Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer. pp. 129–42. ISBN 9781843839811.; Ditchley once provided lodging and access to the royal hunting ground of Wychwood Forest. – timber-framed family house in classic north Oxfordshire wooded farmland, –; Inscriptions –;; Hearn, Karen, Marcus Gheeraerts II, Elizabethan Artist (In Focus series), Tate Publishing, 2002, p. 31.

STRONG 287 – Hearn, Karen, Marcus Gheeraerts II, Elizabethan Artist (In Focus series), Tate Publishing, 2002, p. 24.

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by an means, electronic  or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.




FRANCISCO DE GOYA (1746-1828): first suites of tapestry cartoons for the princes of Asturias in Madrid, 1775 to 1778.

A selection of Goya’s first two suites of decorative tapestry cartoons (or designs) completed for El Escorial in 1775 and El Palacio Real del Pardo between 1776 and 1778. Both palaces were the residences of the Prince and Princess of Asturias, the future Carlos IV (reigned, 1788-1808) and his wife, Queen consort of Spain, María Luisa de Parma.

Dining room of the princes of Asturias in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, 1775.


1. Decoy Hunting 1775. Oil on canvas, 112 x 179 cm.


untitled10fixedThis cartoon called Decoy Hunting is part of the first commission that Goya received for the Royal Tapestry Factory of Santa Bárbara in 1774-1775. It was part of a series of fourteen tapestries – of which Goya rendered 9 – depicting hunting subjects to hang as decoration in the dining room at El Escorial of the Prince and Princess of Asturias. Newly arrived to Madrid in January 1775 , Goya completed and submitted his cartoons for this commission between May and October 1775.


2. Dogs on a leash 1775. Oil on canvas, 112 x 174 cm.

untitled16fixed2This is Goya’s tapestry cartoon of two hunting dogs chained together—one of which sits up and holds a fixed gaze on the viewer—with hunters’ tools on the ground. It is part of a series of decorative tapestries depicting hunting subjects for the new Bourbon rooms installed in 1773 by the architect Juan de Villanueva (1739-1811) at El Escorial. Goya, newly arrived to Madrid from Zaragoza in 1775, was brought into the project because one of its originators, Ramón Bayeu y Subías (1746-1793), after having completed five of the intended fourteen cartoons by March 1775, was appointed to assist painter Anton Raphael Mengs (1728–1779) at El Palacio Real de Madrid in the execution of several frescoes there. Goya rendered the remaining nine cartoons, six of which are in this blog post.


3. Hunting Party 1775. Oil on canvas, 290 x 226 cm.

untitled4fixedHunting Party is one of the nine cartoons Goya provided for the royal dining room at El Escorial. This cartoon scene displays different types of hunting. While Goya worked closely with the designs of Ramón and elder brother Francisco Bayeu y Subías (1734-1795), the originators of this project, the young artist placed his own stamp upon the commissioned work. Goya’s sprinting greyhound, for instance, provides an original and engaging study of how to represent rapid animal movement in a painting.


4. Hunter with his Hounds 1775. Oil on canvas, 268 x 67.5 cm.

untitled8fixedPaired with Hunter Loading his Rifle (below), the cartoon called Hunter with his hounds is for a tapestry in El Escorial to hang by a door (or window). It is notable for Goya’s successful rendering of “a figure in a landscape”— a hunter depicted from the back with a rifle on his shoulder and two leashed dogs—whose artistic accomplishment became a leading challenge for the French Impressionists about one hundred years later.


5. Hunter loading his Rifle 1775. Oil on canvas, 292 x 50 cm.

untitled9fixedGoya’s cartoon is called Hunter loading his rifle. It depicts a face-forward hunter with a sitting dog who stares at the viewer. In the background are others in the hunting party. The design is for a dining room tapestry at El Escorial for the future Carlos IV (1748-1819) and his wife, María Luisa de Parma (1751-1819). It is paired with Hunter with his hounds.


6. The Angler 1775. Oil on canvas, 289 x 110 cm.

Two activities are represented in this cartoon scene—fishing and hunting—with a transition between them marked in the sports’ different tools overlapping in the middle of the canvas. The Angler completed the commission begun in 1774 by Francisco and Ramón Bayeu to prepare a set of fourteen tapestry cartoons for the decoration of the dining room of the future Carlos IV and María Luisa de Parma at El Escorial, of which Goya produced nine of them. The theme of hunting was specifically selected to merge with the monarchs’ use of El Escorial in the autumn as a hunting grounds.

Dining room of the princes of Asturias in the Palace of El Pardo, 1776-1778.


7. The Picnic 1776. Oil on canvas, 271 x 295 cm.


untitled12fixedThe Picnic is part of Goya’s 10-tapestry decorative cartoon series depicting leisure in the countryside for a dining room tapestry at El Pardo for the Prince and Princess of Asturias. Notable for its foreground still life, this scene depicts young revelers sitting on the banks of the Manzanares River at Madrid’s periphery. The Picnic is joined in Goya’s second cartoon series by Dance on the Banks of the Manzanares, A Fight at the Venta Nueva, An Avenue in Andalusia (or The Maja and the cloaked Men), The Drinker, The Parasol, The Kite, The Card Players, Children blowing up a Bladder, and Boys picking Fruit. 


8. A Fight at the Cock Inn 1777. Oil on canvas, 41.9 x 67.3 cm.

untitled15fixedThis is Goya’s preparatory sketch for the cartoon of A Fight at the New Inn, whose name in this early draft is El Mesón del Gallo. For a tapestry in the royal house, the 32-year-old Goya presents a brutal and ironically humorous scene showing country folk from diverse regions of Spain and of varying social roles using several weapon types to violently contest a card game involving money. Goya’s artistic models for this cartoon range from typical seventeenth century Flemish and Dutch genre scenes to elements of Italian classicism.


9. Dance on the Banks of the Manzanares 1776 – 1777. Oil on canvas, 272 x 295 cm.



Goya’s cartoon called Dance on the Banks of the Manzanares depicts a scene of majos and majas (country folk) dancing the seguidillas, a dance that was popular in Madrid and throughout Spain’s Castile region. The view of the river banks and the figure of the man clapping his hands are composition elements preserved in Goya’s drawing notebook suggesting they were taken from life. The resulting tapestry was to be hung on a wall of the dining room at the Palacio de El Pardo in Madrid for the princes of Asturias. Progressing from his hunting cartoon suite done on behalf of the brothers Bayeu the year or so before, this 10-part series of country life scenes was completely Goya’s own invention.


10. Children blowing up a Bladder 1777 – 1778. Oil on canvas, 116 x 124 cm.

untitled18fixedThe tapestry resulting from this cartoon hung in the dining room of the future Carlos IV and Queen consort María Luisa de Parma in El Palacio de El Pardo in Madrid. Notably, Goya initiated with this cartoon the first of his childhood scenes in this series of ten tapestries of “country” subjects for the royal house. In a playful yet dramatic scene, a boy of about 7 or 8 years old inflates an animal bladder as his companion awaits the outcome raising one hand to her heart. Two women seated in the background are perhaps the children’s mothers, one of which presents a melancholic disposition as she holds a hand to the head while the other looks straight ahead at the viewer.


11. An Avenue in Andalusia or The Maja and the cloaked Men 1777. Oil on canvas, 275 x 190 cm.

untitled21fixed untitled20fixeduntitled19fixedThis tapestry cartoon presents an ostensible love scene of a well-dressed young woman with her companion, both of whom Goya identified in the tapestry factory invoice as gitanos, or gypsy people. The scene is also populated with more stealthily dressed figures, perhaps with their own sinister intent, that suggests an undercurrent of jealous spying on the gitano pair. For a Madrid royal palace’s dining room (El Pardo), Goya considered this scene a fanciful contemporary walk in far-off Andalucia in southern Spain.


12. The Parasol 1777. Oil on canvas, 104 x 152 cm.


untitled22fixed-closerThe bottom-to-top perspective view joined by its format indicates that this tapestry cartoon for the El Pardo dining room was intended to decorate an over-arch. A cortejo holds a green-color parasol to shade an elegant young woman from the Iberian sunshine. Goya’s cartoon could have possibly been modeled on the work of Jean Ranc (1674–1735), a French portrait painter or a lunette entitled Vertumnus and Pomano of Pontormo (1494-1557). If it is the Pontormo that inspired Goya then, in this instance, the artist creatively transformed what was an ancient mythological subject into a scene of modern Spanish life.


13. The Kite 1777 – 1778. Oil on canvas, 269 x 285 cm.



untitled25fixedGoya describes this scene as young people who “have gone out to the field to fly a kite.” An observably mid-to-late eighteenth century contemporary scene, a majo is smoking, body splayed upon the ground, sending smoke into the air. In the cartoon’s center three majos fly the popular kite with a sun face on it. One figure holds the spindle, another guides its string, and a third in heroic stance, launches and maintains the kite aloft. In the background, couples chat and watch the kite’s flight, while a dog sits and looks towards the viewer. The building in the cartoon’s upper right part has been interpreted as an astronomical observatory, a scientific project popularly spoken of in the days of Carlos III (1716-1788).



14. The Drinker 1777. Oil on canvas, 107 x 151 cm.


untitled29fixedA cartoon for a tapestry in the dining room in the Palace of El Pardo in Madrid, one of a series of ten made by Goya between 1776 and 1778. This scene of a young man drinking from a boot with a boy eating a raw turnip snatched out of a meager collection of such vegetables with a round loaf of bread that constitutes the cartoon’s still life has been seen as Goya’s allegory of gluttony. Such would be based on characters from a 1554 Spanish novella entitled The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes and of His Fortunes and Adversities which tells the story of a boy named Lazarillo who learns the world’s wiles from a blind beggar to whom he is apprenticed. The format and bottom-to-top perspective view indicates the modern tapestry cartoon was for an over-window decoration.


15. Boys picking Fruit 1778. Oil on canvas, 119 x 122 cm.


untitled31fixedAnother of Goya’s childhood scenes, this joyful and playful cartoon depicts four boys gathered at a tree to shake down its fruit. It is one of four scenes of a set with Children blowing up a Bladder, The Parasol, and The Drinker which hung as overhead decorations in the dining room at El Pardo.  It is part of a series of ten tapestry cartoons of “country” subjects—all conserved in the Prado Museum in Madrid—that Goya composed and produced.


16. The Card Players 1777 – 1778. Oil on canvas, 270 x 167 cm.

untitled32fixedTo give this scene an appearance of realism, Goya carefully crafted each individual face and unique expression for each figure which enhances the depiction of country folk cheating and being cheated at cards. Goya’s accurately-studied contrast of light and shadow enhances his varied colors which works to heighten the scene’s realism. A group of majos situate themselves in a field under a man’s cloak placed on a tree branch that shadows them from the siesta-time sun as three of them play cards. With gold coins having flitted into the hat on the ground of one of the players, the other two majos study their hands – each with an expression of concern. It is darkly humorously revealed to the cartoon’s viewer that accomplices standing behind two players are sending signals to a third player about the unsuspecting victims’ cards. The Card Players thus concludes Goya’s 10-part cartoon series of scenes of country life for the tapestries in the dining room of El Pardo for the princes of Asturias.


Between 1775 and 1792, Goya painted more than 60 cartoons for the Royal Tapestry Factory located in Madrid since 1720 (it moved to its present site by the main train terminal in the nineteenth century). Like its older counterpart in Paris, the Gobelins, the Royal Tapestry Factory supplied the Spanish royal court with tapestries which were among the most prestigious objects owned by them. By the late eighteenth century, large tapestries were hung in palaces mainly for decoration where Goya’s contemporary scenes illuminated newly-built Bourbon rooms at El Escorial and the dining room at El Pardo. That the Prince and Princess of Asturias hung tapestry scenes about the hunt – an activity that was the future Carlos IV’s passion – or about peasant life had, by 1775, already been the fashionable choice for the ruling class for around two hundred years. For Goya’s designs to display the artist’s playfully sensuous invention joined with a dark and ironically humorous wit—along with the candid appreciation of the modern scene based on first-hand observation (especially the costumes) as well as using stock social characters doing things that can intelligently impress and amuse a royal audience and their guests—makes these disposable cartoons the more remarkable. The fact that they were retrieved largely intact from the basement of a Madrid royal palace nearly a century after Goya’s death and are to be found taken care of today in the Prado makes being able to study them firsthand almost miraculous.


On Goya’s cartoons:;

Goya, Robert Hughes, Knopf, New York, 2003.

On tapestries:;

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by an means, electronic  or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.




The Battle of Flodden Field, September 9, 1513—a young Scottish king who confidently walked the world stage is instantly killed.

The Flodden Window (detail) in the Parish Church of St. Leonard in Middleton near Manchester in England. Completed in 1524 by Sir Richard Assheton of an illustrious military and religious family, St. Leonard was built on previous Norman and Saxon buildings and intended to celebrate Sir Richard’s knighthood by King Henry VIII for his part in the Battle of Flodden Field in 1513. The stained-glass window memorializes archers from Middleton who joined the battle on the side of the English. The battle itself took place about 200 miles to the north from Middleton and about 4 miles from the Scottish border inside of England near Branxton.

By John P. Walsh

The reign of charismatic Scottish King James IV (born March 17, 1473) came to an abrupt halt on September 9, 1513 when he was instantly killed in battle against an English army in northernmost England. It was Continental politics and entangling alliances that put Scotland in armed conflict against its neighbor. In 1502 a treaty was signed pledging everlasting peace between the kingdoms of Scotland and England which was sealed in marriage of religious and ambitious James IV to Margaret Tudor (1489-1541), sister of future English King Henry VIII (1491-1547). The Scots also had a treaty with their old ally, France. When the Pope in Italy excluded France from political gain in Italy—and England endorsed the pope’s action—France called on Scotland for help. In the summer of 1513, James invaded England.1

James IV of Scotland (1473-1513). Published by Peter Stent, line engraving, c.1643-1667. 6 7/8 in. x 4 3/4 in. (176 mm x 122 mm) paper size Given to the National Portrait Gallery, London, by Sir Herbert Henry Raphael, 1st Bt, 1916.

James IV of Scotland (1473-1513). Published by Peter Stent, line engraving, c.1643-1667. 6 7/8 in. x 4 3/4 in. (17.6 mm x 12.2 cm) paper size.

Given to the National Portrait Gallery, London, by Sir Herbert Henry Raphael, 1st Bt, 1916.


Portrait of James IV, after 1578, artist unknown, 41.2 x 33 cm, National Galleries Scotland. When James III was killed at The Battle of Sauchieburn fought on 11 June 1488, his fifteen-year-old son James IV succeeded him. He had been the rebels’ assumed figurehead, and for his indirect role in his father’s death James decided to wear a heavy iron belt for the rest of his life. A highly intelligent man, James IV proved an effective ruler. He spoke many languages and took an interest in literature, science and law. Determined to establish strong central leadership he suppressed The Lord of the Isles and created a powerful navy. In 1503 he married the English king’s daughter, Margaret Tudor, in an attempt to create peace between the two countries. Yet when England invaded France, James felt obliged to assist his old ally. He confronted the English army in 1513 but was killed in the disastrous battle of Flodden.


James IV, 1473 – 1513. King of Scots, 17th century, artist unknown, work on paper, 13.33 x 10.16 cm, Scottish National Portrait Gallery (Print Room).


James IV married Margaret Tudor (1489-1541), the sister of future English King Henry VIII (1491-1547).

The Battle of Flodden Field was fought in the county of Northumberland in northern England on September 9, 1513, between an invading Scots army under King James IV and an English army commanded by the Earl of Surrey.

The Battle of Flodden Field was fought in the county of Northumberland in northern England on September 9, 1513, between the invading Scots army under King James IV and the English army commanded by the Earl of Surrey.

Battle strength and casualties are disputed but the Scots likely numbered more than 30,000 men and, after some delay, engaged an English force of around 20,000 men under Lieutenant-General Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, Earl of Surrey (1443-1524) who would be the grandfather of future queens Anne Boleyn (1501-1536) and Catherine Howard (1521-1542).² On September 9, 1513 the two armies clashed at Flodden Field in the far north of England. The battle proved a disaster for the Scots. Scotland’s inspiring king was quickly killed in action with a third of his army, including many officers. English losses were but a small fraction of their total.³

Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, Earl of Surrey (1443-1524).

The battlefield today. The battle started with an artillery duel. The Scots brought heavy guns and had difficulty aiming at the English army at close range and below them. Lighter English guns experienced none of this problem and picked off the Scots' guns. In response, the Scottish left wing advanced down the hill and wreaked havoc on the English right wing. Then the rest of the Scottish army advanced but the valley floor was too marshy and the army got bogged down. Scottish pikemen became easy targets for English infantry and it was here that a third of the Scottish army was destroyed.

The battlefield today. The battle started with an artillery duel. The Scots brought heavy guns and had difficulty aiming at the English army at close range below them. Lighter English guns were able to target and pick off the Scots’ guns. In response, the Scottish left wing advanced downhill and wreaked havoc on the English right wing. The rest of the Scottish army then advanced. But the marshy valley floor bogged down the army including Scottish pikemen who became easy targets for English infantry. A third of the Scottish army was destroyed.

One immediate consequence of The Battle of Flodden Field was to put James V on the Scottish throne. Born in April 1512 he wasn’t even two years old. The Scots were made to wait a generation for kingly leadership in very trying times. Thirty years later, in 1542, James V would die prematurely and was succeeded on the throne by his only legitimate daughter, Mary, Queen of Scots, who was only six days old.


James V, 1512 – 1542, artist unknown, c. 1579, 41.30 x 33.00 cm, National Galleries Scotland. James V (reigned 1513 – 1542), father of Mary, Queen of Scots, became king at one-year old when his father, James IV, was killed at Flodden, fighting the English. Ignoring the advice of his uncle, English King Henry VIII, to become a Protestant, James V strengthened Scotland’s alliance with its traditional ally, France, by marrying French King Francis I ‘s daughter, Madeleine of Valois (1520 –1537). When she died, he married Mary of Guise (1515-1560), another high-born French woman. James V died at Falkland Palace, soon after his army’s defeat by the English at Solway Moss, on November 24, 1542. His six-day-old daughter Mary succeeded to his throne.


Madeleine of Valois (1520 –1537), Corneille de Lyon (1500/1510–1575), Musée des beaux-arts de Blois. First wife of James V of Scotland. They married on New Year’s Day 1537 at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Of delicate health from birth, Madeleine died in July 1537.


Portrait of Mary of Guise (1515 – 1560), Corneille de Lyon, c. 1579, 41.3 x 33 cm, Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Queen of James V of Scotland and mother of Mary, Queen of Scots. The daughter of a French duke, Mary of Guise had just been widowed when she was married to James V to strengthen the alliance between France and Scotland. Their two sons died in infancy and James died a few days after their daughter, Mary, was born in 1542. Mary of Guise chose to stay in Scotland, ruling as Regent to protect her daughter’s interests. Although courageous and determined, her efforts to keep the country in the French Roman Catholic sphere were unsuccessful and she failed to stem the rising tide of Protestantism.


Mary, Queen of Scots, 1542 – 1587, artist unknown (after Francois Clouet, c. 1510 – 1572), 32.90 x 27.40 cm, National Galleries Scotland. Probably a 19th century replica after an image of 1561. Within eighteen months Mary, Queen of Scots, lost three members of her closest family – her father-in-law, Henry II of France, her mother, Mary of Guise, and finally, on 5 December 1560, her husband, Francois II of France. She is shown here in mourning, wearing a white hood and veil. According to the Venetian Ambassador to the French court, Mary was inconsolable and her “tears and lamentations inspired a great pity” in everyone. Eight months later, having lost her position as Queen of France, Mary landed at Leith to take up her duties as Queen of Scotland.

In a subsequent era Scottish poet Jane (or Jean) Elliot (1727-1805) wrote to an ancient Scottish tune a poetic lamentation for Flodden’s martial calamity. Published in 1776, it is called The Flowers of The Forest and is Elliot’s only surviving work.

Dule and wae for the order sent our lads to the Border;
The English for ance, by guile wan the day;
The Flowers of the Forest, that foucht aye the foremost,
The prime o’ our land are cauld in the clay.

We’ll hear nae mair lilting at our yowe-milking,
Women and bairns are heartless and wae;
Sighing and moaning on ilka green loaning:
‘The Flowers of the Forest are a’ wede away.4


1 Trevor Royle, Precipitous City: The Story of Literary Edinburgh, Mainstream Publishing, Edinburgh, 1980. pp. 16-17.

Stanford E. Lehmberg, “The Life of Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey and Second Duke of Norfolk, 1443-1524 by Melvin J. Tucker,” The American Historical Review, Vol. 71, No. 1 (Oct., 1965), p. 158.

“The Flodden Death-Roll,” The Scottish Antiquary, or, Northern Notes and Queries, Vol. 13, No. 51 (Jan., 1899), Edinburgh University Press, p. 102.

4Royle, Precipitous City, p.17.

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by an means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.