Jean De Dinteville Ambassadors Analysis

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Holbein’s ambassadors

In 1532 Jean de Dinteville arrived in England for his second diplomatic venture. Whilst it yielded little, he was sent by the French king to protect relations with Henry VIII, who was in an uproar, planning to break away from the pope in Rome and the Catholic church.
Dinteville had little to do in English court of Henry VIII other than wait for the pregnant Anne Boleyn to marry and become queen of England, which brought about the English Reformation in following year.
In the spring of 1533, when spirits were low, Dinteville’s friend Georges de Selve, a bishop and ambassador who had represented France to the Holy Roman Empire, came to visit him.
Dinteville commissioned the German and Swiss painter Hans Holbein the Younger
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The Ambassadors, painted 1533 by Hans Holbein the Younger is a life-size scale, oil on oak panel double portrait, considered to be one of the most famous paintings in the National Gallery’s collection. The painting has hung in the Gallery for over a century and continues to puzzle observers with its famous distorted skull. Before its purchase by the National Gallery, the double portrait originally hung in Jean de Dinteville’s home.
Dinteville commissioned the double portrait as a symbol of his status and to immortalise his friendship with Georges de Selve. Holbein presented the men in fine fabrics surrounded by symbols of wealth and knowledge in what seemed like a utopian setting, however, Holbein carefully included references to the pair’s troubles on their visit to the court.
Until late in the 20th century, the true identities of the two men in the portrait were unknown, and due to Holbein’s focus on portraiture of English men and women, the French ambassadors were assumed to be
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Jean de Dinteville stands engaging with the viewer wearing a luxurious pink satin shirt and black satin gown lined with lynx fur. To his left, Georges de Selve is dressed in a more modest (yet still highly expensive) fashion, with a fur-lined brown damask cloak.
Dinteville rests his left arm upon the top of a shelf with his right-hand holding an embossed dagger, which is engraved to tell us his age of 29 years.
To the left of him , Georges de Selve’s rests his right arm upon a book with an inscription indicating his twenty-fifth year.
This indicates the ambassadors as highly successful, well educated young men, as they stand proudly, inviting us to gaze into their life of luxury, high status and authority.
The strong friendship between Dinteville and Selve was very evident. During his 1533 visit to England, Dinteville wrote to his brother of the pleasure and honour of Monsieur de Lavaur’s company in the Tudor

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