“Ambassadors”, Hans Holbein the Younger – description of the painting

Description of the picture:

Ambassadors – Hans Holbein the Younger. 1533. Wood, oil. 207×209.5

   A rare picture causes such heated debate and discussion about its content as “Ambassadors” of Hans Holbein the Younger. It captures two rich and educated people. On the left, as it is established, is the 29-year-old French ambassador to England Jean de Denteville, on right – Georges de Selv, Bishop Lavoie, who visited London in April 1533. It is amazing to a young man of 25 how many important missions he was entrusted with at this age — he was an envoy to the Venetian Republic and the Vatican.

   Representatives of the intellectual elite are captured in the environment of all kinds of objects testifying to their interests. Depicted are many measuring instruments necessary to navigate in time and space. They are extremely interesting to consider. For example, on the sides of the polyhedron of a sundial, different points are indicated as a guideline, this is due to time zones. Since the ambassadors traveled a lot (time zones were not de jure in that era, they existed de facto), such clocks helped them orient themselves in local time and correlate it with London. The artist also drew books, including a collection of Luther’s hymns. Here are physical instruments and musical instruments, in the central place there is a lute, a case for flutes. The most mysterious object that could not be determined for a long time is the extremely optically altered (lying on the image angle) lying on the floor … skull.

   A picture is not just a portrait; it carries a certain symbolic message. The skull, of course, introduces into it the motive of the temporality of the earthly existence “Memento mori” (from Latin – “Remember death”). Some objects can be read as a hint of a religious schism and heated discussions related to it, in this vein, a tattered string of a lute is interpreted."