Lady with Squirrel & Starling ~ 1526–28


a Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling by Hans Holbein the Younger (1498–1543) ~ 1526-28

The subject of this portrait was identified in 2004 as Anne Lovell, wife of Sir Francis Lovell (d. 1551), an esquire of the body to Henry VIII. David J. King, in his article “Who was Holbein’s lady with a squirrel and a starling?”, proposed that the starling in the painting encodes a pun on the Lovell family’s seat at East Harling, Norfolk.[1] The starling and the squirrel were traditional elements in the Lovell iconography.[2] Holbein painted the portrait during his first visit to England, which lasted from summer 1526 to to summer 1528. King suggests it might have been done in winter, since the sitter wears a warm fur hat. During this first stay, Holbein worked largely for the circle of Thomas More and his connections: his drawing of More’s ward Margaret Giggs shows her wearing the same type of hat. Holbein also painted portraits of Sir Henry Guildford and Mary, Lady Guildford, with similar decorative foliage in the background.[3] At this stage of his career, he often adapted such designs from pattern books; in his last decade he set his portrait subjects against plain backgrounds in a more iconic style. Art historian John Rowlands judges this painting “the most charming of the portraits from Holbein’s first stay in England”.[4]

  1. David J. King, “Who was Holbein’s lady with a squirrel and a starling?”, Apollo 159, 507, May, 2004: 165–75, repeated on, retrieved 1 March 2009.
  2. Derek Wilson, Hans Holbein: Portrait of an Unknown Man, London: Pimlico, Revised Edition, 2006, ISBN 9781844139187, p. 140.
  3. Susan Foister, Holbein in England, London: Tate, 2006, ISBN 1854376454, p. 30.
  4. John Rowlands, Holbein: The Paintings of Hans Holbein the Younger, Boston: David R. Godine, 1985, ISBN 0879235780, p. 72.

From Bätschmann and Griener, p. 168:

“(…) this appears to be a front fastening gown. The modest sleeve has a deep cuff of the same velvet that appears as trim at the opening. Is it a partlet or chemise? Linen or silk?”

Via: Wiki CommonsNational Gallery, Tudor Dress Portfolio

Leave a Reply