Sir William Butts, M.D., ca 1543 by Hans Holbein the Younger
He's not a movie star or someone currently famous but this type of card with a portrait on it does seem to fall into that category. In the early 1900s many not so famous people also had their own picture put on cards to share with family and friends. Putting portraits on postcards does provide another way for us to see the likenesses of individuals from years past as well as clothing styles and a peek into history.
This week the postcard features a portrait of Sir William Butts, M.D. (1486-1545), physician to Henry VIII painted by Hans Holbein the younger in 1543. Butts was a Member of the College of Physicians and knighted just before he died in 1545. He is buried at All Saints Church, Fulham, London. The painting is part of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum collection, Boston, Massachusetts. Brüder Hartmann printed the postcard in Berlin, Germany. The unused card was found in a small local secondhand/antique shop and caught the eye because the find occurred when the PBS Masterpiece series, Wolf Hall, about Thomas Cromwell and King Henry VIII was being aired. Dr. Butts is mentioned in the series, as is Hans Holbein the artist.
The artist, Hans Holbein the Younger, was born about 1497 in Augsburg, Bavaria, then part of the Holy Roman Empire. His father, uncle and brother were also painters and draftsmen. At about age 30 he traveled to England looking for work and eventually became one of the greatest portraitists of the 16th century creating portraits of Anne Boleyn, Thomas Cromwell, and Henry VIII among others. In his position as King’s Painter to King Henry VIII he not only painted portraits but also designs for jewellery, plate, and other precious objects. He is sometimes referred to as a realist drawing and painting with precision. After his death some of his work was lost but later much was found and collected. By the 1800s he was recognized as a great portrait master. He layered his works with symbolism, allusion and paradox and they have remained a fascination of scholars.
For more about Hans Holbein the Younger and William Butts, please see: