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Hans Holbein (the Younger)

Portrait of Georg Gisze (1532) From the objects shown in this portrait it is evident that the sitter was anxious that not only his likeness but also something of his way of life should be presented. A Latin couplet above the merchant’s head intimates how faithfully the artist has rendered every aspect of the man : `What you see here, this picture, shows Georg’s features and figure such is his eye in real life, such is the shape of his cheeks.’ Yet it is clear from the very form this couplet takes that the picture is meant to convey more than outward appearances and to underline the humanist milieu in which the merchant wished to be seen. The same mood is implicit in a Latin motto inscribed on the rear wall immediately beside a pair of scales: `Nulla sine merore voluptas’ (`No joy without sorrow’). Near the table’s edge, precisely placed in the centre foreground, stands a small table-clock which, together with the fragile glass vase and the perishable flowers, is a reminder of the passage of time, as was the hour-glass in earlier pictures.

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