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Holbein's Sacrifice of Abraham

This engraving attributed to Holbein (presumably Hans Holbein the Younger, 1497/8—1543) reproduces one of several Biblical subjects that Melville collected from the Historic Gallery of Portraits and Paintings. I have catalogued it here, by subject, rather than by artist in a later chapter, because it is a classic representation of an Old Testament tale that registered deeply with Melville until the day he died with Billy Budd unpublished in his desk. This is the only freestanding print after Holbein that Melville is currently known to have owned. Our earliest record of his interest in Holbein as a printmaker is the journal entry in Paris in 1849 in which he “looked over plates by Albert Durer, and Holbein” at the “Bibliotheque Royale” (NN J 33). During his visit to Rome in 1857 Melville noted paintings by Holbein in the Palazzo Barberini and the Corsini Palace (NN J 108, 109, 475, 476).

  • Works Cited in this section
  • Foister, Susan. “Hans Holbein (ii).” Grove, 14: 666-73.
  • Holbein, Hans, the Younger. The Dance of Death: Complete Facsimile of the Original 1538 French Edition. New York: Dover, 1971.