Francisco de Holanda

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Francisco de Holanda
Francisco de Holanda - self-portrait, ca. 1573.jpg
Self-portrait (ca. 1573), the artist presenting his book
Born 6 September 1517
Lisbon, Portugal
Died 19 June 1585 (1585-06-20) (aged 67)
Lisbon, Portugal
Nationality Portuguese
Occupation Humanist, architect, sculptor, painter and historian

Francisco de Holanda (originally Francisco d'Olanda; 6 September 1517 – June 1587) was a court painter, architect, and sculptor for John III of Portugal and later for Sebastian of Portugal. He was considered to be one of the most important figures of the Portuguese Renaissance. Francisco was also an essayist, architect, and historian. He represented the intelligible reality of the Holy Trinity through a "hypothetical" syntax of geometrical figures.[1] Even though he insisted on the contrast between the ideal plane, the incorporeal form and the "imperfect copy in the terrestrial zone", his visual language betrayed its genealogical indebtedness to the mixed sciences of Neoplatonism, Christian Kabbalah, and Lullism.[2] As far as education was concerned, the privileged place 'Holanda' gives to mathematics and geometry anticipates Clavius's reforms of the late 16th century.[3] Sylvie Deswarte said that "Francisco de Holanda gives a privileged place to cosmography and astrology in the education of the painter. On par with geometry, mathematics and perspective, he recommended them [...] in order to reach the heavens in the hope of one day arriving to the Empyreum and realizing celestial works".[4]


Drawing of the Ponte de Sacavém by Francisco de Holanda from his De fábrica

Francisco de Holanda was born in Lisbon, and began his career as an illuminator, following in the footsteps of his father, António d'Holanda, a royal illuminator. He studied in Italy between 1538 and 1547, during which he frequented the circle of Vittoria Colonna, one of the notables of the Italian Renaissance. Colonna provided him with access to some of the greatest artists of his period such as Parmigianino, Giambologna, and most importantly, Michelangelo, who introduced him to classicism.

Returning to Portugal, he obtained various commissions from the Cardinal-Archbishop of Évora, and of the Portuguese kings, John III (1521-1557) and Sebastian (1568-1578). Francisco died in Lisbon Portugal on June 19, 1585 at the age of 67.

Aesthetic Values[edit]

A copy of Francisco's portrait of King John III of Portugal

The aesthetic values of the Renaissance were strongly expressed by Francisco, who stated that the main objective of the painter was to stimulate personal originality and to follow the link to nature (the pure mirror of the Creator) and the link to the ancients—immortal masters of greatness, symmetry, perfection and decorum. Much of this was presented in his three-part treatise on the nature of art, On Ancient Painting (Da Pintura Antiga, 1548), especially in the second part which contains 4 dialogues, supposedly with Michelangelo.[5] Here, his passion for classicism was brought to the forefront, as he communicated the essence of the work of Michelangelo and of the contemporary artistic movement in Rome.

Possessing a versatile intellect, Francisco de Holanda distinguished himself through his series of drawings, "Drawings of the Antiquities [of Italy]" (1540–1547), through his studies on the revival of the archaeological heritage of Rome and on Italian art in the first half of the 16th century.

Francisco was the creator of the facade of the Church of Our Lady of Grace (Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Graça) in Évora. He also painted a number of portraits, not all of which survived.[6][7]

Francisco wrote the first essay on urbanism in the Iberian Peninsula (Da fábrica que falece à cidade de Lisboa, "On the construction lacking to the city of Lisbon") — also, created structures like : the De aetatibus mundi imagines and Antigualhas.

Francisco's notes[edit]

Francisco de Holanda was the author of:

  • De aetatibus mundi imagines (1543–1573)
  • Da pintura antiga (Lisbon, 1548) (in which he attributes the Saint Vincent Panels to Nuno Gonçalves)
    • Part II: Diálogos de Roma
  • Do tirar polo natural (1549)
  • Da fábrica que falece à cidade de Lisboa (Lisbon, 1571)
  • De quanto serve a ciência do desenho e entendimento da arte da pintura, na república christâ assim na paz como na guerra (Lisbon, 1571).


  1. ^ Castillo & Nelson 2012, p. 81.
  2. ^ Deswarte p. 22
  3. ^ Castillo & Nelson 2012, p. 88.
  4. ^ Deswarte p. 24
  5. ^ Ronald W. Sousa, "The View of the Artist in Francisco de Holanda's Dialogues",Luso-Brazilian Review 15 (1978), p. 44.
  6. ^ Annemarie Jordan, Retrato de Corte em Portugal. O Legado de António Moro (1552-1572) (Lisbon: Quetzal Editiores, 1994), p. 50.
  7. ^


  • Alves, José da Felicidade, Introdução ao estudo da obra de Francisco de Holanda (Lisbon, 1986)
  • Deswarte, Sylvie, ed. As Imagens das Idades do Mundo de Francisco de Holanda. Lisboa: Imprensa Nacional-Casa de Moeda, 1987.
  • Castillo, David R.; Nelson, Bradley J. (2012). Spectacle and Topophilia: Reading Early Modern and Postmodern Hispanic Cultures. Vanderbilt University Press. ISBN 978-0-8265-1816-3. Retrieved 29 August 2015. 
  • Santos, Mariana Amélia Machado,"'Á Estética de Francisco de Holanda, I Congresso do Mundo Português (Lisbon, 1940)
  • Segurado, Jorge, Francisco d'Ollanda (Lisbon, 1970)
  • Sousa, Ronald W., "The View of the Artist in Francisco de Holanda's Dialogues: A Clash of Feudal Models," Luso-Brazilian Review 15 (1978), 43-58.
  • Vilela, José Stichini, Francisco de Holanda, Vida, Pensamento e Obra (Lisbon, 1982)i
  1. ^ " - The world's favorite online English dictionary!". Retrieved 2015-10-09.