Holbein Comes to Shetland

April 27th 2018

The countdown has begun! We are delighted to say that today marks one week until the public opening of 'A Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling' by Hans Holbein in Da Gadderie. This painting will be visiting us from 4th May until 15th July and is being loaned by the National Gallery as part of their Masterpiece Tour 2018.

The Masterpiece Tour is part of the National Gallery’s commitment to promote the understanding, knowledge and appreciation of Old Master paintings to as wide an audience as possible. This opportunity to bring hugely popular works to the public’s doorstep is being made possible by the generous support of Christie’s.

Here is some key information on Holbein and his painting before you get the chance to view the incredible masterpiece for yourself:

  • Holbein is famous for creating astonishingly lifelike portraits in the court of Henry VIII and his ministers.
  • Probably painted during Holbein's first visit to England in 1526-8, it has been suggested, very plausibly, that the sitter is Anne Lovell. The starling in the background and the pet squirrel on a chain may have been intended to allude to her name: the Lovell family showed squirrels on their coat of arms and owned a house at East Harling in Norfolk. It is conceivable that the portrait was once part of a pair of husband and wife.
  • Squirrels were popular pets in England as early as the 14th century. In other portraits of women and children by Holbein, pet animals such as a monkey and a marmoset are included; in portraits of men he depicts the falcons used in hunting.
  • The sitter is unlikely to have posed with either the squirrel or the starling: Holbein probably made separate studies of them in drawings.

We look forward to welcoming you to 'A Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling' in Da Gadderie, Shetland Museum & Archives from 10am on Friday 4th May 2018.