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Victoria Button

PhD Work

Project Title: The Portrait drawings of Hans Holbein the Younger: Function and use explored through materials and techniques

The thesis examines the materials and techniques of sixteenth-century artist Hans Holbein the Younger, with particular reference to his portrait drawings. Focusing on the 18 drawings that relate to currently attributed oil and miniature paintings, the research demonstrates the link between the materials and techniques chosen by Holbein, and the function or end-use of the drawings.

Having developed an effective method of examining and describing Holbein's drawings, this research provides a thorough analysis of the materials and techniques used by him. A comprehensive, systematic visual examination of around 100 drawings has helped to reveal new information on Holbein's methods and materials, and offers insights into sixteenth-century workshop practice. An important outcome of this research is a detailed description of the drawings that relate to a painted portrait.

In many cases examination has clarified the sequence in which the media was laid down. It has also revealed that red chalk was the preliminary media for defining features and that Holbein standardised techniques for rendering flesh tones, making the drawing process more efficient. What has previously been described as metalpoint marks were discovered to be indentations, which have become filled with loose media, thereby giving the appearance of a drawn line. The indentations actually show evidence of tracing of the salient lines that capture likeness for transfer. It is apparent that Holbein chose techniques to fulfil a particular role, and that there are clear links between these techniques and their location on a drawing.

Info

  • Victoria Button
  • PhD

    School

    School of Humanities

    Programme

    Conservation–2013

  • Project Title: The Portrait drawings of Hans Holbein the Younger: Function and use explored through materials and techniques

    The thesis examines the materials and techniques of sixteenth-century artist Hans Holbein the Younger, with particular reference to his portrait drawings. Focusing on the 18 drawings that relate to currently attributed oil and miniature paintings, the research demonstrates the link between the materials and techniques chosen by Holbein, and the function or end-use of the drawings.

    Having developed an effective method of examining and describing Holbein's drawings, this research provides a thorough analysis of the materials and techniques used by him. A comprehensive, systematic visual examination of around 100 drawings has helped to reveal new information on Holbein's methods and materials, and offers insights into sixteenth-century workshop practice. An important outcome of this research is a detailed description of the drawings that relate to a painted portrait.

    In many cases examination has clarified the sequence in which the media was laid down. It has also revealed that red chalk was the preliminary media for defining features and that Holbein standardised techniques for rendering flesh tones, making the drawing process more efficient. What has previously been described as metalpoint marks were discovered to be indentations, which have become filled with loose media, thereby giving the appearance of a drawn line. The indentations actually show evidence of tracing of the salient lines that capture likeness for transfer. It is apparent that Holbein chose techniques to fulfil a particular role, and that there are clear links between these techniques and their location on a drawing.

  • Degrees

  • BA (Hons) History of Art, University of East Anglia, 1988; BTEC Higher National Diploma Paper Conservation, Camberwell College of Art, 1991
  • Experience

  • Senior Paper Conservator, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 1992–present
  • Conferences

  • 'The Portrait Drawings of Hans Holbein the Younger, Speaker', Tudor & Jacobean Painting: Production, Influences and Patronage, National Portrait Gallery & Courtauld Institute, London, 2010; 'Holbein's drawing processes: Form and Function', The Technical Examination of Old Master Drawings, The British Museum, London, 2010; 'Watermarks and Paper Evidence in 16th Century Ornament Prints', Looking at Paper: Evidence and Interpretation, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada 1999
  • Publications

  • 'Work in Progress: Holbein's Drawing Processes', Victoria Button, V&A Conservation Journal, 2009; 'New Evidence towards an attribution to Holbein', Lois Oliver, Victoria Button, et al, The Burlington Magazine, 2006; Issues surrounding the attribution of a Holbein drawing, Victoria Button, Archetype Publications, 2009