The Mystery of Holbein’s Ambassadors

Wednesday 1 June 2016

Anthony Russell

Anthony Russell has travelled much of the world, combining painting with tour lecturing – principally to American university students on bespoke tours. He spent six years travelling the country advising on the furniture needs of prestigious buildings, including museums, palaces, schools and cathedrals. Now based in London, Anthony spends much of his time lecturing and undertaking research, while assisting at the British Museum with outreach events and visiting lecturers.

Hans Holbein was the first great mainland painter to spend much time in England and he brought with him a sophistication and skill, with far reaching consequences for this island’s artistic development. His Ambassadors is recognised by the National Gallery as one of its greatest treasures. It dates from a tradition in the arts when no object was without meaning and symbolism. However, practically all of this meaning has been lost to the modern observer. This lecture considers the tempestuous circumstances of its creation and the hidden messages concealed within it. The painting tells us much about the state of Europe at the time and the hopes and fears of its major players.