The Greatest Painting in Britain Poll #1: Holbein

The Greatest Painting in Britain Poll is being run by the National Gallery and the BBC to find the best-loved painting in a UK collection.

I’m using it as a reason to post some of my favourite paintings. No. 1: Portrait of a Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling by Hans Holbein the Younger, ca. 1527. It’s technically brilliant, it has cute animals in it, and it’s vaguely surreal. Why has this impassive-looking young woman been painted with a starling and squirrel? The colours don’t look quite right on either version I found. There’s a larger (but rather washed out) version where it’s easier to see what’s going on here.