One of Holbein's leading ladies vanishes at Tate Britain

  • 29 November 2006

This week passers-by were astonished to see Holbein's Christina of Denmark stepping out of her frame at Tate Britain.

The Art Fund, in cooperation with Tate, organised the fugitive beauty’s appearance to raise awareness of the charity’s work and highlight its role in securing great works of art for UK public collections.

The accompanying message to the empty frame read “How Holbein’s Duchess of Milan would have looked without The Art Fund”.

Hans Holbein’s Christina of Denmark was bought for the nation thanks to an Art Fund campaign in 1909 - £72,000 was found in less than a month. A mystery female donor provided a last minute donation of £40,000 - what was for the time a huge amount of money - to save the painting, on condition that her identity was never revealed. The portrait was painted in 1538 by Hans Holbein on behalf of Henry VIII who, swayed by the depiction, courted Christina, to no avail.

Since 1903 The Art Fund has secured more than 850,000 works of art of all kinds, for public enjoyment. Without The Art Fund, some of the greatest works in Britain’s public collections simply would not be there. They include Diego Velázquez’s ‘Rokeby Venus’ in the National Gallery, Michelangelo’s sketch of Adam in the British Museum, Antonio Canova’s The Three Graces shared between the V&A and National Galleries of Scotland and the Macclesfield Psalter at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

You can see Holbein’s portrait of Christina of Denmark, Duchess of Milan at Tate’s magnificent exhibition, Holbein in England, which is open at Tate Britain until January 7 2007.

Related Links

Find out about The Art Fund's campaigns to save Holbein’s Christina of Denmark, Duchess of Milan and Velázquez’s ‘Rokeby Venus’