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, arquitect, sculptor, painter and historian
Drawing of the Ponte de Sacavém by Francisco de Holanda from his De fábrica
A copy of Francisco's portrait of King John III of Portugal

Francisco de Holanda (originally Francisco d'Olanda; 6 September 1517 – 19 June 1585) was a humanist and painter from Portugal. Considered to be one of the most important figures of the Portuguese Renaissance, he was also an essayist, architect, and historian. He represents the intelligible reality of the Holy Trinity through a "hypothetical" syntax of geometrical figures.[1] Even though he will insist on the contrast between the plane of ideal, incorporeal forms and the "imperfect copy in the terrestrial zone", his visual language betrays its genealogical indebtedness to the mixed sciences of Neoplatonism, Christian cabala, and Lullism.[2] As far as education is concerned, the privileged place Holanda gives to mathematics and geometry anticipates Clavius's reforms of the late 1500s.[3] 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 recommends them [...] in order to reach the heavens in the hope of one day arriving to the Empyreum and realizing celestial works".[4]

Francisco de Holanda was born in Lisbon, and began his career as an illuminator, following in the footsteps of his father, António d'Holanda, 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 who provided him with access to some of the great 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). He died in Lisbon.

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 is brought to the forefront, as he communicates 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 survive.[6]

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") — and created other books of drawings such as De aetatibus mundi imagines and Antigualhas.


Francisco de Holanda was the author of:

  • De aetatibus mundi imagines (1543–1573)
  • Da pintura antiga (Lisbon, 1548)
    • 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.


  • 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)

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