Hans Holbein the Younger
A Lady with a Squirrel and Starling
Oil on Panel, 56x38.8cm, 1526-8
This is one of Holbein’s most beautiful paintings and yet we do not know for certain who this serene (and probably English) young woman is (Anne Lovell?). Holbein lived and worked in Basel, Switzerland, and this was probably painted during his first visit to England. The sitter looks away calmly, gently holding her pet squirrel on her arm, while a starling is perched on a branch, not startled by her presence. The fur of the ermine cap, the simple white shawl, so very delicately edged with a fine black line, and the most subtle hint of her white smock peeping out of her sleeve is all exquisitely painted. The simple clothing, which has no jewellery or embroidery, allows Holbein to show off his skills in painting fabrics. It is a masterpiece in its careful composition and delicate depiction of character, fur and fabric in paint.
National Gallery, London