Recall from A varied movement: Hans Holbein that Hans was described as “the supreme representative of German Reformation art.”  


Hans left Basel to work with his father Hans Holbein the Elder in Lucerne for two years on commercial art projects such as murals for merchants and frescoes for the mayor. He returns to Basel in 1519. His brother had faded from record and Wikipedia assumed he had died.

Hans re-establishes himself in the city running a busy workshop. He joined the painters’ guild and took out Basel citizenship. He married  Elsbeth Schmid, bought a second house and had kids.

Hans was prolific during this period which coincided with the arrival of Lutheranism in the city. In a period of revolution in book design, he illustrated for the [famous] publisher Johann Froben. His woodcut designs included those for the Dance of Death, the Icones (illustrations of the Old Testament) and the title page of Martin Luther’s Bible.

Through the woodcut medium, according to Wiki, Hans refined his grasp of expressive and spatial effects. The gradual shift from traditional to reformed religion can be charted in Holbein’s work.

His painting Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb of 1522 expresses a humanist view of Christ in tune with the reformist climate in Basel at the time. It shows a life-size, grotesque depiction of the stretched and unnaturally thin body of Jesus Christ lying in his tomb.

Dance of Death by Hans Holbein the Younger 1523 – 1526

The Dance of Death (1523–26) is an artistic genre of allegory on the universality of death: no matter one’s station in life the Dance of Death unites all. Holbein’s series of woodcuts shows that none escape Death’s skeleton clutches; a pope, emperor, king, child laborer, the pious. …

And artists.  Hans Holbein the Younger died (1543) from bubonic plague during one of its many outbreaks in London throughout the 16th century.

But when Hans returned to Basel after spending two years in London (1526 – 1528) with the Erasmus – Sir Thomas More circle of humanists, the city had become turbulent.  Reformers swayed by the ideas of Ulrich Zwingli carried out acts of iconoclasm and banned imagery in churches. Erasmus left the city in 1529.  Hans goes back to England in 1532.


Note:  I don’t want to say that Hans was politically invested in either side of the religious divide while in Basel.  I think he was just was an artisan plying his trade in a city that had plenty of  work.