The Ambassadors

Explore 4 discreet 

and subtle details in

Hans Holbein’s masterpiece

Explore 4 discreet and subtle details in Hans Holbein’s masterpiece 

The Ambassadors was painted in 1533 by Hans Holbein the Younger

I'm an image

The Ambassadors was painted in 1533 by Hans Holbein the Younger

What's my age again?

Details of the painting

1

The painting tells their age. Jean de Dinteville was the French Ambassador to England. He poses on the left. His friend and fellow diplomat Georges de Selve is on the right. Holbein has listed the age of his subjects. You can read on Dinteville’s dagger "AET. SV Æ/ 29" (he is 29) and "AETAT/IS SV Æ 25" (his age is 25) on the pages of the book by de Selve. They were quite young for such an important position.

1

The painting tells their age. Jean de Dinteville was the French Ambassador to England. He poses on the left. His friend and fellow diplomat Georges de Selve is on the right. Holbein has listed the age of his subjects. You can read on Dinteville’s dagger "AET. SV Æ/ 29" (he is 29) and "AETAT/IS SV Æ 25" (his age is 25) on the pages of the book by de Selve. They were quite young for such an important position.

A symbol of discord

2

A broken string. If you look closely at the lute, you will notice that one of the strings is snapped . A harmonious instrument now represents discord . It could be a reference to the tensions of the time between England and the Catholic church . The English church renounced papal authority when Henry VIII failed to secure an annulment of his marriage in 1534.

2

A broken string. If you look closely at the lute, you will notice that one of the strings is snapped . A harmonious instrument now represents discord . It could be a reference to the tensions of the time between England and the Catholic church . The English church renounced papal authority when Henry VIII failed to secure an annulment of his marriage in 1534.

I'm an image

A “hidden” crucifix

3

The crucifix. In the upper left corner, Holbein painted a small crucifix behind the green curtain. Some say it could represent the division of church that Henry VIII was inflicting to his countrymen.

3

The crucifix. In the upper left corner, Holbein painted a small crucifix behind the green curtain. Some say it could represent the division of church that Henry VIII was inflicting to his countrymen.

I'm an image

Surprise!

4

The anamorphic shape. Hidden in plain sight is an anamorphic shape of a skull. Anamorphosis is the depiction of an object in a way that purposely distorts its perspective, requiring a specific viewing point to see it properly. When looking at an angle from the right, the weird shape on the floor becomes a human skull, symbol of the mortality of the sitters

4

The anamorphic shape. Hidden in plain sight is an anamorphic shape of a skull. Anamorphosis is the depiction of an object in a way that purposely distorts its perspective, requiring a specific viewing point to see it properly. When looking at an angle from the right, the weird shape on the floor becomes a human skull, symbol of the mortality of the sitters

From Our Collection

Meet The Ambassadors in our collection of fun artsy gifts! 

The Grand Museum of Art

$49.00 USD

100 Masterpieces Scratch Poster

$20.00 USD

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