Erasmus (1466/9 - 1536) was one of the most famous writers of his day and one of the most admired humanist scholars. In this portrait the artist has tried to surround the sitter with items which reflect his interests and profession. This idea was developed further in Holbein's 'The Ambassadors'. A Latin couplet on the book on the back shelf, perhaps by Erasmus himself, praises Holbein's skill: 'I am Johannes (i.e. Hans) Holbein, whom it is easier to denigrate than to emulate.'
This painting is not available for reproduction
From The National Gallery Podcast: Episode Forty Eight, October 2010