“IN EVERY WAY A SPLENDID BOOK”: FIRST EDITION OF IMITATIONS OF ORIGINAL DRAWINGS BY HOLBEIN, A MAJESTIC LARGE FOLIO VOLUME OF 84 BEAUTIFUL COLOR STIPPLE-ENGRAVED PORTRAITS OF THE COURT OF HENRY VIII, WITH THE VERY RARE EXTRA SUITE OF 8 PLATES OF THE COURT OF FRANCIS II
(HOLBEIN, Hans) CHAMBERLAINE, John. Imitations of Original Drawings by Hans Holbein, In the Collection of His Majesty, For the Portraits of Illustrious Persons of the Court of Henry VIII. London: William Bulmer, 1792[-1800]. Large folio (17-1/2 by 22-1/2 inches), 19th-century full dark green morocco, raised bands, elaborately gilt-decorated spine and boards, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. $38,000.
First edition of Chamberlaine’s magnificent volume of 84 color stipple-engraved plates, rarely found complete, an impressive collection of full-page engravings after Holbein’s legendary portraits of Jane Seymour, Anne Boleyn, Sir Thomas More, a young Edward VI, Anne of Cleves, and other court figures, with color frontispiece portraits of Holbein and his wife, with all but four portraits engraved by the great Bartolozzi. With the very rare extra suite of eight Holbein portraits of the court of Francis II, only included with some copies. Beautifully bound.
German artist Hans Holbein the Younger ranks "as one of the best portrait-painters in the world. He combined artistic beauty and precision of technical execution with extraordinary truth to nature and power of interpretation of character." Holbein, born in 1497, first "arrived in England in the 18th year of the reign of Henry VIII. Sir Thomas More was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Warham… was Archbishop of Canterbury. Through them Holbein obtained easy access to the leading men of the court," painting portraits of Moore, Warham and many others before returning home. He journeyed back to England in 1532, where, by 1536, he was in service as "'the king's painter' and in that year he painted the new queen, Jane Seymour." In 1539, as a New Year's gift to the king, "he gave 'a table of the pictour of the prince's grace,' possibly the portrait of the infant Edward VI at Hanover… His portrait of Anne of Cleves (perhaps the one now in the Louvre) was sufficiently attractive to decide the king in her favour" (DNB). The majestic portraiture of Holbein, who died in London in 1543, "remains unsurpassed for sureness and economy of statement, penetration into character, and a combined richness and purity of style" (Waterhouse). At the end of the 18th century, John Chamberlaine, in the court of George III, sought to bring together a work to pay tribute to Holbein's magnificent artistry. There had been previous unsuccessful attempts to publish the portraits in engraved reproductions, such as a 1792 volume containing 33 plates of poor quality, titled The Court of Henry the Eighth. Yet Chamberlain succeeded where others failed, for as the king's Keeper of the Drawings, he assembled, in this Imitations of Original Drawings by Hans Holbein, 84 splendid color stipple-engraved full-page portraits of Edward VI, Anne Boleyn, Thomas More, Jane Seymour, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Anne of Cleves, and other major figures of the age.
"One of the most magnificent books that we have ever seen, and, whether we consider the genius of the painter or the talents of the engravers, reflects high honor on the age and nation which produced it" (London Monthly Review). Sir Walter Scott praised it as "a collection which at once satisfies the imagination and the understanding, showing us… how the most distinguished of our ancestors looked, moved and dressed, and… how they thought, acted, lived, and died" (Allibone, 1120). Color-inked on the plates, these intricate stipple-engraved portraits comprise "inestimable examples of English color printing at its best" (Joan Friedman). "This magnificent work is surely the finest early example of English color printing. The reduced reissue of 1812, reprinted in 1828, gives no idea of the book's quality" (Ray English 19). "In every way a splendid book" (Abbey Life 205). Initially issued serially in 14 parts from 1792-1800. This volume's 84 beautiful portraits, some printed on pink paper, were achieved with techniques that admirably succeed in honoring Holbein's portraiture. The plates were etched or engraved in gray or sepia ink, with additional colored inks applied a la poupee, two hand-colored. Text by Edmund Lodge. The suite of eight additional portraits of the court of Francis II is all that was published of "an intended continuation to Chamberlaine's Imitations. It will be noticed that all eight are without dated imprints, and it is therefore probable that no copies were issued to the public until the stock was acquired many years later by Messrs. Bohn, who added them as a Supplement to copies of the earlier work" (Abbey Life 206). Lowndes 1381. Abbey Life 205, 206.
Some plates mounted. One plate with repaired tear, plates exceptionally clean and fresh, binding beautiful. A stunning production.