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Derich Born (1509/10-after 1549) was a merchant from Cologne and the youngest member of the London Hanseatic League. In 1536 he supplied Henry VIII's armourer, Erasmus Kyrkener, with military equipment for the suppression of the Northern Rebellion. However, in 1541 he and his elder brother were expelled from the London Steelyard (the walled area where the Hanseatic merchants resided and did business) after a dispute with the Duke of Suffolk concerning payment for a consignment of lead. Born is documented in Antwerp in 1542 and 1543, and last recorded in 1549, when he submitted a formal complaint about his expulsion while in Cologne. This is one of a group of seven surviving portraits of German merchants by Holbein (1497/8-1543) all painted c.1532-3 and perhaps intended to be sent home to the sitters' families. It has been suggested that the pose in Barthel Bruyn's portrait of a member of the Born family (previously James A. Stillmann, New York) may have been copied from Holbein's painting and that therefore either Born's portrait, a copy of it or the preparatory drawing was originally sent back to Germany. The relationship is not that close and it is more likely that Holbein's portrait remained behind when Born left, since the portrait was in Charles I's collection in the seventeenth century. No preparatory drawings survive for the Steelyard group. These might have been sent back to the merchant's home for their families or it may be that Holbein did not use preparatory drawings for these portraits. Derich's wealth is subtly displayed in the very expensive satin doublet and black fur-lined gown. This restrained elegance was the fashion in Cologne. His face is centrally placed and confronts the viewer; his elbow is precisely centrally below his face and his body is turned at a perfect angle. Infrared reflectography reveals slight but careful adjustments to the outlines of his shoulders, head and cap with freehand lines. The right-hand contour of the face was redrawn three times. Unlike the other Hanseatic portraits the inscription is on the stone ledge at the lower edge: DERICHVS SI VOCEM ADDAS IPSISSIMVS HIC SIT / HVNC DVBITES PICTOR FECERIT AN GENITOR / DER BORN ETATIS SV AE 23. ANNO 1533 . [If you added a voice, this would be Derich his very self. You would be in doubt whether the painter or his father made him. Der Born aged 23, the year 1533]. This suggests that the portrait appears to be so lifelike that you would doubt whether it is painted (by the artist) or is in fact the real living person (the child created by the father). Lack of voice is the final missing element, but no amount of artistic skill can supply this. The inscription suggesting that the portrait is alive because of the skill of the artist looks back at the classical tradition when Apelles could match nature with his art. The perfectly composed figure centrally placed above the inscription recalls the portrait bust of a memorial, yet the sitter is paradoxically alive, and his gaze challenges us. The idea that art could perfectly imitate nature, its permanence and the question of epigrams in stone lasting longer than paintings were much debated by contemporary humanists. Derich Born was Holbein's answer to Erasmus's eulogy of Dürer which described the artist as the new Apelles, and the sitter's pose has been compared to that of Dürer in his famous 'Self-portrait' of 1498 (Museo del Prado, Madrid). Many other sources, both Italian and northern, have been linked to the portrait. It does seem to be closely related to Titian's 'Man with a Quilted Sleeve' (National Gallery, London). Holbein made a second, small portrait of the sitter (paper on wood, Alte Pinakothek, Munich) at around the same date.

Details

  • Title: Derich Born (1510?-49)
  • Creator: Hans Holbein the Younger
  • Date Created: 1533
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Supplied by Royal Collection Trust / (c) HM Queen Elizabeth II 2012
  • External Link: http://www.rct.uk/collection/405681
  • Medium: Oil on Panel
  • Provenance: Acquired by Charles I; possibly given by Charles I to the Earl of Arundel; Arundel inventory Amsterdam 1655; acquired by Charles II by c.1666-7
  • Object description: Derich Born is shown with his head and shoulders facing three-quarters to the right, head turned slightly to the right, leaning upon a stone ledge with an inscription in Latin. He is wearing a black silk doublet and black fur-lined gown over a white shirt, a black cap. In the background, vine leaves against blue.

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