Hanseatic Commissions Hanseatic Commissions

Hans Holbein the Younger Cyriacus Kale

Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/8–1543)
Cyriacus Kale dated 1533

Lent by the Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Kunstmuseum des Landes Niedersachsen, Braunschweig

Merchants from the trading association known as the Hansa came to London from north German cities such as Cologne, Lübeck, Braunschweig and Danzig to supervise their empires in goods from cloth to wine. Their reach extended from the Low Countries to Scandinavia, their ships crossing from the North Sea to the Baltic and back again, sometimes bringing luxuries imported from as far away as India and Asia. In the City of London the merchants were based at the Steelyard, a large residential and trading compound beside the Thames.

Contact with the merchants may have assisted Holbein in forging a network of fellow foreign workers, including the foreign goldsmiths with whom he collaborated. The London Hanseatic merchants gave Holbein a number of important commissions. He designed their City pageant for the coronation of Anne Boleyn in 1533 and provided moralising paintings for the dining hall in their City headquarters, which depicted the Triumphs of Riches and Poverty, now lost. Holbein also painted their portraits, in many ways significantly different from the ones he made for his English sitters; suitably for men living abroad, they emphasise memory and piety and include numerous inscriptions, rarer in surviving English portraits.