It is difficult to imagine marrying someone before ever setting eyes on them, but throughout the centuries many people were forced to do just that. Henry VIII however set about finding a way to overcome such a nerve-wracking experience, and hired painter Hans Holbein (the Younger) to paint formal portraits of his, many, potential brides.
Holbein had traveled from his home in Augsburg, Germany to Basel, Switzerland at the age of sixteen to work as an artist. He painted signs and altars, murals, stained glass, coats of arms and even crafted book type. He decided to travel to England where he had more opportunity to find work as a painter, and with letters of recommendation from his friend Erasmus (the writer) he traveled there in 1526.
After making the acquaintance of Sir Thomas More, Holbein was quickly made a court painter to King Henry VII with many commissions, including formal portraits of the King and of several of his wives. The task of accurately depicting any women who might prove suitable brides for the King was also another duty of Holbein's, but after painting an inaccurately flattering image of Anne of Cleves, Holbein never received another commission from the King.
By this time however Holbein was at an advanced age and would die only three years later. He also had gained a reputation for his miniature portraits, and produced a few excellent examples in the last years of his life.
Holbein's paintings are in many major museums around the world, including those in France, England, Germany, Scotland and the United States, among others.