Large Noses of the 16th C. / Hans Holbein


It drives me crazy: most art from the past doesn’t show us what people looked like. 

Hans Holbein the Younger (German) was hired in the 16th C. to document the court of Henry VIII. He was the perfect choice to fulfill the task and we have a superb resource in his work, which is close to photographic, and in fact psychologically superior to most photography.

Previously I posted the “funny noses” of Mycenaean soldiers depicted on vase paintings. Here, what I notice at the English court are very generous noses – on both male and female subjects. And low foreheads, not infantile dome heads.

Hans_Holbein_the_Younger_lady_Alice_More hans%20holbein%20lady%20with%20a%20squirrel%20and%20a%20starling_2 img-thinghoward

A few of these women, if wearing male costume, would have easily passed as young males.


Above: Male or female? My initial observation is that these faces are less neotenic than our contemporary range of adult faces. Some of these women were quite young at the time the portraits were painted. The extravagant male / female costumes may have been designed to increase gender distinction in a population in which there was less sexual dimorphism in facial features.

13939134559_b0a6849665_b 10477175535_176cf46537_bjane seymour


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