The Ambassadors is an oil on canvas painting of 1533 by Hans Holbein the Younger. Also known as Jean de Dinteville and Georges de Selve, it was created in the Tudor period, in the same year Elizabeth I was born. Speculations would suggest that Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn, then Queen of England, might have commissioned the painting as a gift for ambassador Jean de Dinteville, who is portrayed on the left in the painting. As well as being a double portrait, the artwork contains a still life of several meticulously rendered objects, the meaning of which is the cause of much debate. It incorporates a much-cited example of anamorphisms in painting. This painting displays the influence Early Netherlandish painting had on Holbein.
The most notable and famous of Holbein’s symbols in his work is the distorted skull placed in the bottom center of the composition. The skull, rendered in anamorphic perspective, another invention of the Early Renaissance, is meant to be a visual puzzle as the viewer must approach the painting from high on the right side or low on the left side to see the form as an accurate rendering of a human skull.
The Ambassadors has rested in London’s National Gallery collection since its purchase in 1890.