This is a new type of post I'm going to be making to help our powers of observation. It will feature art work and I'll point out things I notice about it, what experts say and more importantly I hope you will comment also.
Today, let's look at the work of Hans Holbein
Georg Gisze, a German merchant in London
1532 (200 Kb); Oil on wood, 96.3 x 85.7 cm (38 x 33 3/4 in); Gemaldegalerie, Staatliche Museen, Berlin
The first thing I admire about this portrait is the way the artist put the subject in a situation, he gave him context to add interest using his status as a rich merchant. We can see scattered about different things needed to be a merchant. The table he sits at also gives him an air of respect as its covered with a fine turkey rug as they were called.
Although this painting seems somber, many areas of light , almost white are present. look at he fine rendering of silk on the sleeve. There is everything from the lightest of pink to the deepest brown present. The face is not so delicately rendered, always fascinating to me. Notice how the green wall behind complement the rose and though warm by nature ( yellow green ) provides the only and coolest colour in the palette.
For me the little details of paper sticking out of a book, things set on angles and piled up and almost slipping from the table release the formal sitting from being too staid.
Here is what Jason Zweig says about the symbols in the paintings
This cosmopolitan trader must have asked Holbein to make him seem as thoughtful and cultured as possible in this wedding portrait. Books of various sizes litter his workspace, and the carnations (or “pinks”) that symbolize betrothal dominate the foreground and blaze against his black waistcoat. His desk is covered with an Ushak rug imported from Turkey. An intricate brass desk-clock, a reminder that time is fleeting, stands next to the delicate Venetian blown-glass vase that holds the flowers; coins, the symbol of Gisze’s wealth, are shown off to one side, an apparent afterthought idly heaped in a pewter dish with its lid askew. Scratched on the wall at the upper left is Gisze’s personal motto, “Nulla sine merore voluptas” (“There is no pleasure unmixed with sorrow.”) Seeming to float almost like the moon in a night sky, an ornately decorated string dispenser hangs from the shelf on the right. Gisze’s bride must have been enchanted with this portrait, which remains one of the most humane and intriguing pictures of a businessman ever made.