Having written acclaimed works like Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Far From the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy is primarily known as a novelist. However, after the turn of the century, he exclusively wrote verse, prolifically composing ballads, villanelles, sonnets, satires and folk songs with prodigious ease. Seemingly traditional, he consistently experimented with the forms he mastered and made ample use of his esoteric vocabulary and striking appreciation of orthodox themes to distinguish himself from his accomplished poet contemporaries. His poetic output alone affords his legacy the acknowledgement and respect that his novels previously engendered.
Holbein’s tiny portrait projects us into a private moment in the life of an ordinary middle-class woman living in the reign of Henry VIII.