Holbein’s painting as an Optical Symbol for the text

Seeing the image of Holbein’s 1533 painting “The Ambassadors” adds to my reading of the book because it suggest that the story will focus on how wealth and social class affect the characters living conditions and the people whom the characters acquaint themselves with. The painting reflects this because there are two men who are dressed differently. One man appears to be heavier, with more layers of clothing, and displays a  fur. Perhaps his clothing suggest that he is wealthy, because he is able to show his assets. This man appears to be holding a weapon, maybe implying that he is strong and powerful. The other man however, has on dark colored clothing that lacks fur, which is not at all as fancy as the other man in the painting. His facial expression is dull, unlike the other man, who has rosy cheeks, and brighter eyes. Perhaps the simple clothing suggest that this man lives an average life, and is not as wealthy as the other. In addition, the man who appears to be wealthy has a globe in his background. Maybe the globe shows his ability to travel, meet various people, and be an experienced man. The other man, lacks the globe in his background, yet seems to have a less intriguing object in his background. Perhaps implying that he is living a mild life.

Reading the book adds to what I see in the painting because it helps me make sense of the individual’s clothing, facial expression, and objects that surround them. These aspects provide information about their character. After reading the two books, I am aware that Waymarsh is more financially successful then Strether, who is relying on Ms. Newsome to improve his social class and wealth. In addition, I learned that Strether is less experienced by not having the opportunity to travel and enjoy his life due to an early marriage. Maybe Strether could be the individual in the painting without the globe in his background? While reading, it is revealed that Strether desires more out of life, which could possibly explain the dull facial expression given by the less wealthy man in Holbein’s painting.

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1 Response to Holbein’s painting as an Optical Symbol for the text

  1. Dominique Zino says:

    Thanks, Allison!

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