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Hans Holbein the Younger | Jean de Dinteville and Georges de Selve ('The Ambassadors') | 1533 | The National Gallery, London  | Photograph ©The National Gallery, London

Hans Holbein the Younger | Jean de Dinteville and Georges de Selve (‘The Ambassadors’) | 1533 | The National Gallery, London | Photograph ©The National Gallery, London

Hans Holbein the Younger’s “The Ambassadors” of 1533 is well known for its anamorphic image of a skull in the foreground, but upon close perusal, the objects on the table between the two subjects prove just as fascinating.

To start with, the painting memorializes Jean de Dinteville, French ambassador to England, and his friend, Georges de Selve, who acted on several occasions as French ambassador to the Republic of Venice, to the Pope in Rome, and to England, Germany, and Spain.

The upper shelf, which is concerned with the the heavens, includes a celestial globe, a portable sundial, and various other instruments used for understanding the heavens and measuring time, while the lower shelf, which reflects the affairs of the world, holds musical instruments, a hymn book, a book of arithmetic, and a terrestrial globe. (more…)

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