About this artwork

The images and inscriptions provide a painted sermon. The central theme, encouraged by the Reformation, is the contrast between the unforgiving Old Testament Law (LEX) on the left, and the forgiving Grace of the New Testament (GRATIA) at the right. Man (HOMO)'s failure to obey the commandments God gave to Moses, led to sin (PECCATUM) and death (MORS - the skeleton). However, man is forgiven and achieves salvation (VICTORIA NOSTRA) through Christ's Crucifixion and Resurrection. Man sits between the Old Testament prophet Isaiah and St John the Baptist, who points the way forward to Christ 'the Lamb of God' (AGNUS DEI).

Hans Holbein the Younger

Hans Holbein the Younger

Holbein is best known in Britain for his splendid portraits of Henry VIII, the king's wives and prominent figures of the Tudor Court. His international acclaim as a painter and draughtsman was established through portraits he made of the Dutch scholar Erasmus. Holbein also painted religious and allegorical subjects and worked on large decorative schemes. He was born in Augsburg, then moved to Basle. Religious discord in Basle, arising from the Reformation, and the disruption of artists' businesses may have prompted Holbein's first journey to Britain in 1526. He returned for good in 1532 and was appointed court painter.