Desiderius Erasmus - Representations


  • Hans Holbein is considered to be the greatest portraitist of Erasmus, having painted him at least three times, and perhaps as many as seven; some only survive in versions by other artists. His three profile portraits of Erasmus, two (nearly identical) profile portraits and one three-quarters view portrait were all painted in the same year, 1523. Erasmus used the Holbein portraits as gifts for his friends in England, such as William Warham, the Archbishop of Canterbury (as he writes in a letter to Warham regarding the gift portrait, Erasmus quips that "he might have something of Erasmus should God call him from this place.") Erasmus spoke favourably of Holbein as an artist and person, but later criticized Holbein whom he had accused of sponging off of various patrons to whom Erasmus had recommended, for purposes more of monetary gain than artistic endeavor.
  • Albrecht Dürer also produced portraits of Erasmus, whom he met three times, in the form of an engraving of 1526 and a preliminary charcoal sketch. Concerning the former Erasmus was unimpressed, declaring it an unfavourable likeness of him. Nevertheless, Erasmus and Dürer maintained a close friendship, with Dürer going so far as to solicit Erasmus's support for the Lutheran cause, which Erasmus politely declined. Erasmus wrote a glowing encomium about the artist, likening him to famous Greek painter of antiquity Apelles. Erasmus was deeply affected by his death in 1528.
  • Quentin Matsys produced the earliest known portraits of Erasmus, including an oil painting in 1517 and a medallion in 1519.
  • In 1622, Hendrick de Keyser cast a statue of Erasmus in bronze replacing an earlier stone version from 1557. This was set up in the public square in Rotterdam, and today may be found outside the church of St Lawrence.

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