Sir Brian Tuke served as Master of the Posts during Henry VIII’s regime, establishing England’s postal service. This portrait shows Tuke at the age of 57. What one word would you use to describe the sitter?
This picture exemplifies the qualities often praised in Hans Holbein the Younger’s work. We see a precise observation of detail, as well as an impartial, accurate portrayal of Tuke’s face. On the table beneath Tuke’s left hand is a folded paper bearing a quotation from the Book of Job which begins, “Are not my days few?” The gravity of the sentiment is echoed in Tuke’s countenance; his faint smile is pained and his eyes, fixed but not focused, seem melancholy.
Hans Holbein the Younger, “Sir Brian Tuke,” c. 1527/1528 or c. 1532/1534, oil on panel, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Andrew W. Mellon Collection