Meet the Tudors via Holbein's pencil...

It is very easy to look at a picture from the past and see its style, rather than its subject.

This is very useful if we are interested in the evolution of the camera, or of paint application, or of thought. It is not so useful if we wish to travel back in time.

Unfinished pictures are very useful to the Retronaut. These sketches by Hans Holbein (c.1498 - 1543) show us precise individual moments. His finished paintings show time blurred - time observing, thinking, drawing, painting, drying, framing, hanging. Each finished picture is made up of many thousands of moments, each invisible amongst the blur.

Not so his sketches. In the sketch of Anna Mayer (above), we can see Holbein’s pencil marks outlining Anna’s sleeve at the exact moment that Holbein saw it, and drew it.

These unfinished pencil marks say “I am seeing this person right now” - and so are we.

Here are some more of Hobein’s sketches. Click on any to open the gallery, and click the top right symbol to open one full size:

Thanks to Ancient Industries.