English law imposed fierce restrictions on foreigners working in England. In order to limit competition with English workers, which had provoked riots in London in 1517, they were not permitted to employ others unless they became English denizens – permanent residents. Holbein finally became a denizen in 1541, but it is likely that his position as court painter gave him some protection.
Holbein lived in the parish of St Andrew Undershaft in the City of London and may also have worked there. It is probable that he would have needed assistance with preparing paints, and, in the case of large compositions, with preparing his designs and painting them. The group portrait for the Barber-Surgeons Company is mentioned in Van Mander’s 1604 life of Holbein as a work completed after his death.
It is likely that this was carried out by a painter or painters used to collaborating with Holbein, who may also have been responsible for some of the other portraits presented in this section. The English painter John Bettes may have known something of Holbein’s techniques, but ultimately Holbein’s legacy was that he was admired rather than imitated.