The Ambassadors, Hans Holbein the Younger, National Gallery

November 6, 2011

I am alone with the Ambassadors.


I have been trying to catch the eye of Jean de Dintevilles but it rests firmly on the Adoration of the Kings. Likewise, the Bishop of Lavour looks straight through me towards the Holy Trinity. Neither man can be adverse to the eyes of strangers but their demeanour is of non-engagement. Are they upset or just focussed on other matters?


More eyes now, this time globes in three dimensions darting across more globes in two. Searching for narrative and marvelling at fibrous brushwork. Closer, to the extreme right and then further away – murmurs, soft discussions and the intonation of conclusion. The only clearly audible voices are those of children.


This painting is now far from Jean’s house in Polisy and its form and purpose have changed. A wilful expression of pride, power and influence. A projection of real human energy which at one time was hyper-visceral, has now been snuffed. What remains is vibrant colour and a trick of the eye.

Signs invite us to escape into the artwork and so I sit waiting for an emergency to arise, but nothing happens. I am now just alone, and it is time to leave. I have not been able to look into the eyes of the Ambassadors. It is, perhaps, no longer possible.




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