Category Archives: 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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

Chicago Harbor Lighthouse (1893).

Chicago Harbor Lighthouse, September 14 2017.

Chicago Harbor Lighthouse, Chicago, Illinois.

Known as the “Chicago Light,” the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse is an active automated lighthouse that stands to the north of the Chicago Harbor main entrance about one-half mile beyond the end of Navy Pier. This Lighthouse played a significant role in the development of Chicago and remains an active aid to nautical navigation. For more than a century the U.S. Coast Guard staffed this vital lighthouse at the breakwater outside the Chicago Harbor Lock that separates the mouth of the Chicago River from Lake Michigan. The lock, built in the mid-1930’s, is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and is one of two entrances into the Illinois Waterway system at the Great Lakes. That system provides a commercial and recreational shipping connection to the Gulf of Mexico by way of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. The Chicago Light starts (or ends) that adventure as it sits in the outer harbor that was constructed in 1880. Through the breakwaters the main entrance into Chicago Harbor is 580 feet wide. The Chicago Light’s conical tower dates from 1893. Twenty-five years later the base building (a fog-signal room and boathouse) was constructed and the tower was reconstructed. The architect is not identified. It was designated a Chicago Landmark on April 9, 2003. The Chicago Harbor Lighthouse is the only surviving lighthouse in Chicago and one of only two remaining examples in Illinois.


The Chicago River: an illustrated history and guide to the river and its waterways, David M. Solzman, Wild Onion Books, Chicago, 1998, pp.126-128.

Chicago Landmarks Map [Brochure], City of Chicago, 2006. – retrieved December 2, 2017.

©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.

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.




Breakpoint of Irish Nationalism: the 1916 Easter Rising, or how a motley band of playwrights and poets as rebels did more in six days for the cause of Irish freedom than Irish nationalist politicians could in fifty years.


Dublin’s O’Connell Street in the wake of The Easter Rising in 1916. The centenary of that event whose leaders proclaimed an Irish Republic is this year.

By John P. Walsh. May 12, 2016.

Today marks the centenary of the final executions of Irish rebel leaders by British firing squads in connection with the 1916 Easter Rising which proclaimed an Irish Republic and left Dublin in ruins.  James Connolly and Seán Mac Diarmada—the final two of 14 executions that began on May 3, 1916 with the executions of Pádraic Pearse, Thomas MacDonagh and Thomas Clarke—died in the same fashion as the others: taken at dawn from their cells into a Kilmainham Jail yard—Connolly tied to a chair because his battle wounds in the Rising made him too weak to stand—and summarily shot dead. Three years later, in April 1919, military forces under British command halfway around the world in India reacted with similar cruel and vindictive logic to national protest—this time one that was nonviolent—which by official British statistics killed 379 and wounded 1200 Indians in what is known as the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.


James Connolly is brought to his execution on May 12, 1916 by British soldiers at Kilmainham Jail in Dublin. Connolly was shot by a firing squad after being carried in on a stretcher from a first-aid station at Dublin Castle.


wm_17PO-1B14-22 Patrick Pearse

PADRAIC PEARSE (1879-1916), school headmaster, orator, and writer. The extended court-martials and executions by British General Maxwell of Irish rebel leaders—as well as arrests of hundreds without trial following the general surrender on April 29, 1916—fulfilled Pearse’s romantic and revolutionary ideology expressed in notions of “blood sacrifice.” Pearse’s idea was that Ireland “was owed all fidelity and always asked for service (from its people), and sometimes asked, not for something ordinary, but for a supreme service.” Pearse was one of seven signatories of the Irish Proclamation.


THOMAS MACDONAGH (1878-1916). Poet, playwright, educationalist. A leader of the Easter Rising – MacDonagh was one of the seven signatories of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. He wrote letters to loved ones in jail before being executed expressing the hope that his death would share in the custom of blood sacrifice for Irish freedom. MacDonagh wrote that he was proud to “die for Ireland, the glorious Fatherland” and anticipated that his blood would “bedew the sacred soil of Ireland.”

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THOMAS J. “TOM” CLARKE (1858-1916). Deeply involved with the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) since youth, Clarke established in 1915 the Military Committee of the IRB to plan what became the Easter Rising. A signatory of the Irish Proclamation, Clarke was the oldest rebel to be shot by the British in May 1916. Sergeant Major Samuel Lomas who helped shoot the three Irishmen on May 3, wrote that unlike Pearse and MacDonagh who died instantly, “the…old man, was not quite so fortunate requiring a bullet from the officer to complete the ghastly business (it was sad to think that these three brave men who met their death so bravely should be fighting for a cause which proved so useless and had been the means of so much bloodshed).”

The rising involved a treasonable conspiracy that resulted in the deaths of British soldiers among the 418 people killed in and around Dublin. The penalty for such action would certainly call for capital punishment in Western European countries in 1916. It is surprising that executions were kept to under 15 rebels, although British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith (1852-1928), following the first three executions on May 3, 1916, expressed concern that the trials and death sentences were being briskly implemented. General Maxwell’s blunder was to stretch out the executions over two weeks, where the element of daily shock and surprise as to who made the list of the dead forever changed the tide of Irish public opinion against British rule.

gen john maxwell  ignored calls by  British politicians, including the prime Minsiter, for moderation in its treatrment of irish prsioners.

General Sir John Maxwell (1859-1929). For as long as possible, the military governor ignored all appeals by British politicians – including the Prime Minister – as well as  Roman Catholic bishops in the United Kingdom – to halt the executions.


Joeseph Plunkett

JOSEPH PLUNKETT (1887-1916). Hours before he was executed on May 4, 1916, sickly Joseph Plunkett married his fiancée Grace Gifford in the prison chapel. Thomas MacDonagh, who was executed on May 3, had married Grace’s sister Muriel Gifford in 1912. Plunkett, who came from a wealthy background, was a poet and journalist, a member of the Gaelic League, and a standing member of the IRB Military Committee that planned the Easter Rising. During the Rising, Plunkett’s aide de camp was Michael Collins. Plunkett signed the Irish Proclamation.


EDWARD “NED” DALY (1891-1916). From Limerick, Ned Daly was commandant of the 4th Battalion, where some of the fiercest fighting of the Rising took place. Daly’s father had taken part in the Fenian Rising of 1867; his uncle, John Daly, served 12 years in English jails; and his sister, Kathleen, was married to Thomas Clarke. Daly commanded the Four Courts garrison during Easter Week 1916. Though there were not enough Volunteers to hold all posts, following the bitter battle of Mount Street Bridge, Daly and his comrades still held the Four Courts, and other significant outposts in Dublin until called by Pearse to a general surrender.

willie pierce

WILLIAM “WILLIE” PEARSE (1881 – 1916) was the younger brother of Padraic Pearse. Willie stayed by his brother’s side during the entire Rising at the General Post Office (G.P.O.) which served as rebel headquarters. In Kilmainham Jail Willie was promised he could visit his brother before he died on May 3, but the British hid the truth of it since Padraic Pearse was shot as Willie was being taken to see him.


MICHAEL O’HANRAHAN (1877-1916). Michael O’Hanrahan had come to a newly-formed Sinn Féin out of his work with the Gaelic League as a linguist and published writer where he founded its Carlow Branch and later worked with Maude Gonne and Arthur Griffith. Like Edward Daly, his father had been deeply involved in the Fenian Rising in 1867. O’Hanrahan was the National Quartermaster for the Irish Volunteers and, during the Easter Rising, served under Thomas MacDonagh of the 2nd battalion based at Jacobs Factory.


mcbride-xmas-82-img3 (1)

MAJOR JOHN MACBRIDE (1868-1916). Second in command at Jacob’s Biscuit Factory during the Easter Rising. MacBride had had a colorful career previously as an Irish émigré to South Africa where in 1899 when the Second Boer War broke out he raised a brigade of other Irish emigrants who fought bravely against the British. Upon his return to Ireland he married (and divorced) Maude Gonne. Now facing the British firing squad in May 1916 at Kilmainham Jail, MacBride refused a blind fold. He told his executioners, “I have looked down the muzzles of too many guns in the South African war to fear death and now please carry out your sentence,” which they did.

Irish public opinion changed virtually overnight regarding the rebels who had brought the central city of Dublin down onto their heads during the 1916 Easter Rising. At the surrender Volunteers were jeered and cursed on their way into British hands. Two weeks and 14 executions later, they were forever-after hailed as Irish heroes. The attitude of the Irish populace to their British overlords during martial law turned spiteful. The British lost their credibility as a civilizing force for the island. The executed Irish rebel leaders were not saints although some such as forty-one-year-old Michael Mallin, thirty-four-year-old Éamonn Ceannt and twenty-seven-year-old Con Colbert were devoutly religious Catholics. They offered a modern dream of an independent Irish Republic and did it at the supreme sacrifice of their lives. These rebels’ fixity in the pantheon of Irish history rests in large measure on imagery and legend for their undeniably courageous but failed six-day insurrection. Self-appointed, this group of mostly young idealists who by force of arms, will, and words were able, despite a dastardly outcome, to have had an enduring impact on an independent Ireland is well worth remembering today.



ÉAMONN CEANNT (1881-1916). Inspired by nationalist events such as the Second Boer War, Éamonn Ceannt joined the Gaelic League which promoted Irish culture. There he met Padraic Pearse and his future wife, Aine O’Brennan. A talented musician and Irish linguist, he joined Sinn Féin and the IRB which was sworn to achieve Irish independence. With Joseph Plunkett and Sean Mac Diarmada, Éamonn Ceannt served on the IRB Military Committee which planned the Easter Rising. He signed the Irish Proclamation. During the Rising, Ceannt saw intense fighting as commandant of the 4th Battalion of the Volunteers stationed south of Kilmainham Jail where he would later be executed. In prison he wrote: “I die a noble death, for Ireland’s freedom.”

michael mallinFIXED

MICHAEL MALLIN (1874 – 1916). With Constance Markievicz as his deputy, Michael Mallin commanded the Irish Citizen Army under James Connolly at St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin during the Rising. At his court martial Michael Mallin, the father of five children, claimed he was not a Rising leader nor had a commission in the Irish Citizen Army. Since the British refused to execute Countess Markievicz, Mallin became their best alternative although his garrison had inflicted little damage from the Green. Mallin had had a fourteen year career in the British Army where, while stationed in India, he became anti-British. In Ireland he rose to become a leading official in the silk weavers’ union where he successfully negotiated a 13-week strike lockout. His negotiating skills led to an appointment as deputy commander and chief training officer of the Irish Citizen Army which was formed by James Connolly to protect workers from employer-funded gangs of strike-breakers. In 2015, Mallin’s youngest child, who became a Jesuit priest, celebrated his 102nd birthday.


SÉAN HEUSTON (1891-1916). A railway clerk, Séan was a member of Fianna Éireann, a youth organization which helped raise soldiers for the Irish Volunteers and had outreach to the IRB. During the 1916 Easter Rising, he held the Mendicity Institution on the River Liffey with only 26 Volunteers when after more than two days, “dog-tired, without food, trapped, hopelessly outnumbered, [they] had reached the limit of [their] endurance” and surrendered. Heuston Train Station in Dublin is named for this Irish rebel who had worked there in a traffic manager’s office.

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“Con” Colbert (1888-1916). Like Séan Heuston, Colbert joined Fianna Éireann – an Irish nationalist youth organization founded by Bulmer Hobson and Constance Markievicz  – at its first meeting in 1909. The night before Con Colbert was shot on May 8 – he had been a student of Pádraic Pearse at St. Enda’s School – he asked to see a Mrs. Séamus Ó Murchadha who was a prisoner since she cooked meals for the Irish Volunteers during the Rising, including Colbert. The 27-year-old rebel told Mrs. Ó Murchadha he would be “passing away” tomorrow at dawn and that he was “one of the lucky ones” to die for Ireland’s freedom. Colbert told her he was going to leave his prayer book to one of his twelve siblings and gave Mrs. Ó Murchadha three buttons from his Volunteers uniform. He asked her that when she heard the shots at first light that would kill him, Éamonn Ceannt, Sean Heuston, and Michael Mallin to say a “Hail Mary” for each of their departed souls. Colbert also requested that the other women prisoners, reprimanded that morning for saluting the men going to the jail’s Sunday Mass, to do the same. According to the surviving Mrs. Ó Murchadha, the British soldier guarding Colbert began to cry as he heard their exchange and said: “If only we could die such deaths.”

May 12, 1916 now arrived. Twelve rebel leaders had been shot since May 3 and there would be two more today. In that short amount of time the traitors of Easter week became Ireland’s martyrs and ascendant heroes. Their pictures started to be hung in Irish homes and their poetry read for inspiration. W.B. Yeats wrote his famous verse about Ireland shortly after the Rising and its executions: “a terrible beauty is born.” A mythical Cú Chulainn dying in battle, an image beloved by Pádraic Pearse, had suddenly become real.


sean mac Seán Mac Diarmada (27 January 1883 – 12 May 1916)

SÉAN MAC DIARMADA (1883-1916). Séan Mac Diarmada was on the IRB Military Committee which planned the Rising and a signer of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. Mac Diarmada promoted Irish nationalism in the Gaelic League and in the Irish Catholic fraternity of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. He organized for Sinn Féin, managed Irish Freedom, a radical newspaper started in 1910 by Bulmer Hobson, and helped found the Irish Volunteers. After the surrender, Mac Diarmada, who had been with Pearse at the G.P.O., nearly escaped but was identified by Daniel Hoey of G Division who, in 1919, was shot himself by a firing squad with Michael Collins standing behind it. The British Officer Lee-Wilson who ordered Mac Diarmada to be shot rather than imprisoned, was also murdered on Collins’s order during the Irish War of Independence. Before his execution, Mac Diarmada wrote: “I feel happiness the like of which I have never experienced. I die that the Irish nation might live!”


JAMES CONNOLLY (1868-1916). James Connolly stood aloof from the Irish Volunteers because he considered the leadership to be too bourgeois and not concerned enough with the plight of Ireland’s workers. A Roman Catholic by birth and a committed socialist by choice, Connolly considered using his Irish Citizen Army to strike a blow for Irish independence in early 1916 (Michael Collins later announced that he “would have followed [Connolly] through hell”). The IRB’s Tom Clarke and Padraic Pearse fostered a partnership between the Irish Volunteers and Connolly’s ICA for the Easter Rising in 1916. Connolly became the de facto Dublin commander at the G.P.O.  After his capture, because he was severely wounded, Connolly was held in a makeshift infirmary at Dublin Castle instead of at Kilmainham Jail. He might have died just from his wounds,  but the execution order was given out and on May 12, 1916 the last prisoner was shot. To his executioners Connolly reportedly said: “I will say a prayer for all men who do their duty according to their lights.”


Proclamation of the Irish Republic with its seven signatories.


Cú Chulainn dying in battle, 1911, bronze, by Oliver Sheppard (1865 – 1941), General Post Office (G.P.O.), Dublin, Ireland.


“died in the same fashion” – see Britain & Irish Separatism: from the Fenians to the Free State 1867/1922, Thomas E. Hachey, The Catholic University of America Press, Washington, D.C., 1984, p. 176.

For the Jallianwala Bagh massacre see – Jallianwala Bagh Massacre (Monograph series / Indian Council of Historical Research), V.N. Datta and S. Settar, Pragati Publications, 2002; Imperial Crime and Punishment: The Massacre at Jallianwala Bagh and British Judgment, 1919-1920, Helen Fein, University of Hawaii Press, 1977; Jallianwala Bagh Massacre; A Premeditated Plan, Raja Ram, Publication Bureau, Punjabi University, 2002; The Historiography of the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, 1919,Savita Narain, Spantech & Lancer,  1998.

Pearse’s idea of blood sacrifice – quoted in Dividing Ireland: World War I and Partition, Thomas Hennessy, Routledge, London, 1998, p.126.

MacDonagh letter excerpts – quoted in Last Words: Letters and Statements of the Leaders Executed after the Rising at Easter 1916, edited by Piaras F. MacLochiliann, The Stationary Office, Dublin, 1990, pp.55-56.

Sergeant Major Samuel Lomas on Tom Clarke – quoted at

418 people killed – Myths and Memories of the Easter Rising: Cultural and Political Nationalism in Ireland, Jonathan Githens-Mazer, Irish Academic Press, Portland, OR, 2006, p.120.

P.M. Asquith expressed surprise –

On Edward Daly –

On Michael O’Hanrahan – and

Éamonn Ceannt quote –  MacLochiliann, pp. 141 and 171.

Collins quote – Michael Collins: The Man Who Made Ireland,  Tim Pat Coogan, St. Martin’s Griffin, 2002.

Connolly quote – For the Cause of Liberty: A Thousand Years of Ireland’s Heroes, Terry Golway, Simon and Schuster, 2012.

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