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Jean de Dinteville, the man on the left, is shown on his second diplomatic mission to England on behalf of Francis I, King of France. To the right is his close friend, Georges de Selve, Bishop of Lavaur. This portrait was painted at a time of religious upheaval in Europe. Although the pope had refused to annul Henry VIII, King of England’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon which resulted in a break with the Roman Catholic Church, in 1533 he married Anne Boleyn. The array of objects on the table seem to allude to discord; the arithmetic book, for example, is open at the page concerning mathematical division. The portrait is a supreme display of Holbein’s skill in composing images and in manipulating oil paint to recreate a variety of textures.
Jean de Dinteville and Georges de Selve ('The Ambassadors')
Oil on oak
H 207 x W 209.5 cm