Jasper Johns (b. 1930)

Untitled (After Holbein)

Jasper Johns (b. 1930)
Untitled (After Holbein)
signed, inscribed and dated 'Jasper Johns St. Martin FWI Jan. '93' (lower center)
graphite on paper
28 1/8 x 18¼ in. (71.4 x 46.3 cm.)
Drawn in 1993.
Leo Castelli, New York
Yamahata Fine Art, Tokyo
Private collection, Tokyo
Margo Leavin Gallery, Los Angeles
Acquired from the above by the present owner
New York, Jason McCoy, Inc., Heads and Portraits: Drawings from Piero Di Cosimo to Jasper Johns, May-June 1993, pp. 78-80, no. 37 (illustrated).
Minneapolis, Walker Art Center; Greenville, Greenville County Museum of Art; Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art; Valencia, IVAM, Institut Valencia d'Art Moderne; Dublin, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Past Things and Present: Jasper Johns Since 1983, November 2003-April 2005, p. 96, no. 50 (illustrated).


The concept behind Untitled (After Holbein), is directly linked to Jasper Johns' encounter with an exhibition of drawings by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497-1537) in 1988. While Johns vividly recalled the drawings he saw at the Kunstmuseum Basel that summer, it was the exhibition poster picturing Holbein's Portrait of a Young Nobleman Holding a Lemur which would inspire his own series based on the image.

The first three works of the series were executed in 1989 using ink on plastic. Johns called these works Tracings due to the way in which they were essentially traced from the image of the poster. Untitled (After Holbein) stands out as it is the only to be executed in graphite, differs in scale from the poster, and is the only where Johns has chosen to depict the portrait in reverse. Kate Ganz writes, "His drawing of the Holbein portrait has been done free-hand, backwards mysteriously and indelibly his. He provokes us to associate the drawing with two of his own favorite reversing techniques, the printed image and the reflection of an image seen in mirror... By veiling the sitter... Johns has hidden the subject almost entirely from view, an act that would have been unthinkable to a Renaissance draughtsman... Exactly four hundred and fifty years separate [this] drawing... from [that] drawn by Holbein. One is an image of a real person made to evoke his presence. The other is an image of an image which has contained within it not only an homage to its model but an entire history of what the act of drawing was and has become"(K. Ganz, Heads and Portraits: Drawings from Piero Di Cosimo to Jasper Johns, London, 1993, pp. 78-79).