A stately French family with connections to Holbein’s The Ambassadors sells off the last of their heirlooms in 2000 when this picture was considered the work of an imitator:
Marco Grassi, a New York conservator who was at the auction, said he advised the Swiss collector to make the purchase, which cost 2,000 euros.
When the crude background had been removed a painting created by Holbein emerged. The hands, book and fur had been painted in the style of the artist and infrared photography showed that the underdrawing for the hands also resembled Holbein’s methods.
The Telegraph story doesn’t say whether the Swiss collector who bought it has any plans to sell but the last Holbein portrait to come to market was sold for more than $10 million. However, the real excitement comes not from the dollar value but from the knowledge that Holbein had indeed painted Erasmus, who had been instrumental in introducing the painter to the English aristocracy, and that the thinker and painter remained friends until late in life.