seems to be—that it is in fact symbolical and not real in its incidents, and was painted long after the time supposed to be represented, probably in the following century.
These remarks will not be thought wholly unnecessary, inasmuch
- This picture is usually attributed to Holbein, but in error. It is an amplification of Holbein's picture of the same subject, which is at Bridewell hospital. That picture contains only eleven figures, including the painter himself; the picture at Christ's hospital has ninety or more, and not only is it very inferior as a work of art, but obviously of posterior date in point of costume.
Holbein's picture at Bridewell, which must have been painted shortly before his death (if that event, as is generally supposed, occurred in London in 1554), is a highly valuable one, and a worthy companion to that which he painted for the Barber-Chirurgeons, representing their receiving their charter from Henry VIII. in 1541. The king is seated under a canopy of state, and delivers the charter with the great seal attached to the lord mayor, who with the two sheriffs kneels to his right hand. Behind them stand the lord chancellor (bishop Goodrich) and another attendant. To the left stand—a person in a laced gown, holding a roll in his hand, and supposed to be sir Robert Bowes the master of the rolls; and a nobleman wearing the garter, said to be the earl of Pembroke [but on what authority I do not know. One would rather imagine he might be the duke of Northumberland great master of the household, or lord Darcy the lord chamberlain.] Behind these are two other persons, undistinguished by their costume; and, next the edge of the picture, Holbein himself. A large engraving was made of this picture by Vertue in the year 1750.
The picture at Christ's hospital is derived from Holbein's so far as the principal figures go. The number of aldermen kneeling to the right is increased to eight; and to the left are bishop Ridley and three others also kneeling. In the background the governors of the hospital are standing with their wands, to the number of about forty. Besides these, a boy and girl of the hospital are kneeling before the king, and fourteen others of either sex are ranged in couples along the front of the picture, the rows being terminated by a beadle and a matron. This picture is very neatly engraved on a small scale by Mr. Augustus Fox, as the frontispiece to Mr. Trollope's History of Christ's Hospital. Its demerits are criticised "with candour" by Malcolm, who says the king's figure, though insignificant from its small size, is the only one whose attitude is easy, natural, and dignified. This is obviously because it is more faithfully copied than the rest from the Bridewell picture. Malcolm, however, had no suspicion that the picture at Christ's Hospital was not actually Holbein's work. My own impression is that it is of the period of James I. or Charles I.
There is also in the hall of Christ's Hospital a correspondent but still larger picture, in which king Charles the Second appears as the principal personage. This was painted by Verrio, chiefly at the instigation of Mr. Pepys. (Trollope, p. 124.)