http://www.holbeinartworks.org /bfourstmandtpitt.htm Sir Thomas More and The Princes in the Tower Part One The conventional and unconventional symbols in the portrait Sir Thomas More and his Family (Nostell Priory, Nr. Wakefield, West Yorkshire, England) I may now draw attention to the persons depicted life-size in this large painting (approximately 3.5 x 2.5 meters). From left to right, the Latin inscriptions identify : Margaret Clement (née Giggs), adopted daughter of Thomas More and wife of Dr. John Clement ; Elizabeth Dauncey (née More), second daughter of Sir Thomas More and wife of Sir William Dauncey ; Sir John More (More's father) ; Anne Cresacre (fiancée of John More II) ; Sir Thomas More ; John More II (More's son) ; Henry Patterson (More's "Fool") ; and, in front of Patterson : Cecily Heron (née More), More's youngest daughter and wife of Giles Heron ; Margaret Roper (née More) wife of William Roper and More's eldest daughter ; Lady Alice (second wife of Sir Thomas More). An unmarked man is reading in a back room and an oddly marked mystery man stands in a doorway. This man is dressed in the old Italian style and all other persons depicted are dressed in the English style. The name above his head is 'Johanes heresius' (sic), with 'ius' heavily marked. Line 1 reads : ‘Johanes heresius Thomae'. Line 2 reads : ‘Mori famul: Anno 27' (sic). Since 'famul:' is an abbreviation, presumably, for 'famulus' or 'secretary', this person has been identified as More's secretary, John Harris. However, the word 'heresius' has not been given a capital letter, unlike all other surnames in the painting. It means it is not a surname 'Harris'. And if not a surname, then 'heresius' perhaps means what it means in the Latin Vocative when addressing, for instance, a king : 'heres' ('heir') and 'ius' ('right' or, „rightful') -- the „rightful heir'. „John the rightful heir‟ is located 'head and shoulders' higher in the family group (the person of highest status was conventionally placed highest in a portrait in the sixteenth century), meaning he is of higher status than Thomas More, who is depicted seated. Infrared photographs of the mystery man show that the top of his hat is higher than the hat of any other depicted, one more symbol of seniority. (See : “Bookstall” CD ROM) There is more. The artist has painted an optical illusion above the head of 'Johanes heresius' beneath a series of fleur-de- lis (a symbol of royalty) above the doorway. Seen from the left, there appears to be a door, which is half- open -- seen from the right, an angled view of the doorframe. The effect of the illusion is to make the door 'disappear'.  In addition, he is wearing a sword (a servant ? wearing a sword ? in an informal portrait ?) and one curiously bent finger is touching the pommel of the sword handle. He holds a parchment with two seals and near his sword is a buckler (a warrior's status symbol) with a polished rim and spokes.  If what is pictorially represented is translated into familiar French language -- an 'optical illusion' is 'porte-à-faux' (literally, 'false door').  The man holds the parchment 'il tient le parchemin' means, in courtly French, 'he holds the right and title of nobility'. The spoke of a wheel is 'rai' and the rim 'jante', a split-homophone of 'régente', and 'le bouclier du régente' means 'buckler of the king'. The ceiling timbers are not in perspective above his head, an artist's 'line-fault', or 'faute de ligne' or 'faute de lignage', which also means a 'fault in the lineage'. I have to draw attention to one or two hidden lines. For instance, the top of the mystery man's hat is on the same horizontal line as the top of the /M/ in More's name, which is centrally placed above More's head. The intersection of the vertical and horizontal lines forms a right angle. The free-hanging cords of the clock weights enable all lines and angles to be measured 'true' without recourse to assumed verticals on doors or window frames. The statistically improbable right angle signals an unconventional pictorial part "message" : 'The man of highest status is quartered on Sir Thomas More' (living with him). Similarly, the pendant on the collar of SS, the gold chain of office on More's shoulders, is not hanging centrally but has been moved to the observer's right. A vertical line upwards from the pendant to the higher clock weight and a horizontal line leftwards from the same point to the purple-and-gold flag iris forms a right angle at the base of the clock weight. The door of the clock is open and the round decorative emblem shows a solar eclipse. The single clock hand is represented by a right hand with the index finger pointing 'near the eleventh hour'. The impression is that : (1) The Sun is a symbol of the royal house of York. (2) The mystery man is a Duke of York, marked by a hidden perpendicular from the arc of the sun's corona (a symbol carried on the personal arms of the second son of the English kings : i.e. the Duke of York). (3) Someone has just died, since the curtain is drawn, the emblem shows a black eclipse and Thomas More is oddly unshaven (symbols of 'death' and 'mourning'). The second statistically improbable right angle marks the purple-and-gold flag iris, suggesting a second royal personage, since the colour and flower are both associated with royalty. Either this is a tautology or, since the existence of a purple-and-gold flag iris is unknown to horticulture, the artist is referring in an allegorical mode to a Royal Standard Bearer, an official position at court. (See : 'standard', or 'flag'; 'stem', 'bearing-stem' or 'bearer', for '' ['iris', in Greek], Oxford English Dictionary. See also Isaiah II, 'The [royal] stem shall come forth from Jesse').  The impression is that this non- existent purple-and-gold flag iris signifies a person of higher status than a Duke of York (placed higher in the painting). If true, it was this person of higher status who had just died (marked by the black eclipse) and was now left quartered ('left-quartered') in the heart of the former Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, More's office at the time (with which the gold pendant and collar of SS are generally associated). Investigation shows that seven of the heads in this painting are almost certainly from the original sketches made by Holbein of the More family in their Chelsea home, during his first visit to England in 1526 until 1528 and now in the Royal Collection at Windsor. This does not mean the painting is dated some time between 1526 and 1528. The sketches may have been amalgamated into the painting some time later. That may not be obvious to us at first today, but plainly obvious to More‟s family and friends some five years later, during Holbein's second visit to England, when the family documentation shows, it was painted by Holbein in the Roper family home at Eltham in Kent. I must now draw attention to the facial skin of 'Johanes heresius'. It has a 'waxy' quality compared to the realistic facial skin of Henry Patterson standing beside him. The impression is that the artist has 'waxed young' 'Johanes heresius'.  Since Holbein does this in two other paintings where names and ages (or dates) are included and the person is depicted at least half his known real age, the hypothesis was tested that 'Johanes heresius' is depicted in the picture at half his known real age. He is not 27 years ('anno 27') but 54. The impression is that the man of highest status, a notional person (one who only apparently exists), conjecturally the second son of an English king and the rightful heir -- must factually pre-suppose a deceased elder brother, a Prince of Wales (the title of the first son of the English kings). Examination of the open book on Margaret Roper's lap (right foreground) shows two pages of Seneca's Oedipus and that Margaret is pointing, unmistakably, to the word 'Oedipus'. Beside her, Cecily Heron is counting on her fingers. The impression is that Margaret is pointing to some sort of tragedy concerning a king while Cecily signals: 'One king or two kings -- one tragedy or two tragedies ?‟ The lines depicted in Latin on the two pages are from a speech by Seneca's Chorus in Act Two, beginning : 'Fata, si liceat mihi fingere arbitrio meo...' ('If it were permitted to me to change Fate according to my will...'). It continues in the sense that he (or 'she') would have matters other than they are. The facing page is headed 'L. AN. Seneca' or 'Lucius Annaeus Seneca' or, more probably, 'Lucii Annaei Senecae' (Latin Genitive). However, Oedipus solved the riddle of the Sphinx and the name is sometimes given to persons good at solving puzzles (See : 'Oedipus', OED). The latest opinion for the birth year of Thomas More opts for 1477, either 6/7 February. 'L. AN.' means 'fifty years' or 'fiftieth year' in French, which corresponds with the age written above More's head 'an / no 50'. 1477 add 50 equals 1527. Bearing in mind the open clock door and that the time has been changed -- the artist appears to declare that this portrait was not painted in 1527 when the clock was stopped 'near the eleventh hour' (the pendulum is missing). It means that 1527 was not the date of the execution of the painting but the year of the family matters referred to in the painting -- a retrospective painting. Examination of each book depicted shows : (1) the open book in Margaret Clement's hand (far left) contains blank pages and her middle finger is pushed into the spine of the book. (2) The closed book under Elizabeth Dauncey's right arm (second from left) is Seneca's Epistolae (written along the edge). (3) The book by the head of Sir John More (seated beside Sir Thomas More) is de Consolatione Phil[-osophiae] by Boethius (written along the edge) containing (according to Geoffrey Chaucer's translation) 'his complaints and miseries'.  (4) The book being read by the man in the back room shows the claw marks of a small animal across the open pages. We will return to this again. (5) John More II is reading a book, most intently. It has long been conjectured whether John More was overshadowed by his classically trained sisters. Above his head the artist has written : 'Joannes Morus Thomae / Filuis anno 19' (sic) -- or 'John, Son of Thomas More, aged 19'. „Filuis?‟ We do not have to be experts to know that the word is „Filius‟ or ‟Son‟ („slightly backward‟ in Latin ?). This corroborates family documentation and is relevant to known history : 'John More, Sir Thomas's son, was reckoned foolish and his picture represents him as such. But by the help of a good education he was able to write one or more Latin letters to Erasmus.‟ Also to be considered are the three flower arrangements in the portrait, two of which are neatly blended and matched, and one other which is un- neat, un-blended and un-matched. This latter marks Margaret Clement. Another non-existent flower, a purple peony of similar colour to the flag iris, is included with its lower edge on the same line as the base of the lower of the two clock weights (above More's head) and the top of the hat of 'Johanes heresius'.  Similarly, from the purple peony, the line of the lute marks Margaret Clement, and above, a similar line marks Elizabeth Dauncey through the line-faulted viol. Both women are positioned under a fringed canopy (a symbol of marriage). On the shoulder of the viol is an improbably placed f- hole in the shape of a down-curved pair of horns, and behind the heads of the two women is a large plate. In front of the plate, a vase is covered with a cloth. Elizabeth is oddly depicted with only one glove and her little finger is strangely bent. The floor is strewn with rushes and a small dog with one ear cocked is seated at Thomas More's feet.  If we project a line from the cupolas of the two Belladonna lilies in the left- hand flower arrangement to the centre of the cocked ear of the little dog, the line passes precisely between the heads of the two women. Another projected line, from the pink depicted in the right-hand window to the same point in the centre of the dog's cocked ear, touches the noses of 'Johanes heresius' and Cecily Heron, and where this second line meets the first line at the centre of the ear -- an obtuse angle is described. It is clear that these factual observations make no sense in English. However, a French version produces a series of linguistic equivalents, which do indeed make sense. Similarly, if we identify the flowers, their symbolism in their own language of flowers (long forgotten) may be understood. I concluded that the lines and angles were not random but had been mathematically calculated since the alignment referred to at least one intermediate point between the extremities. I observed that each one of these points had a linguistic equivalent : 'These lines, touch secretly upon persons A, B and C ; are directed at A and B and C ; or concern A and B and C' -- and that they ALL made sense. In view of the large canvas, virtually all the detail is visible. In addition to the central placement of the figure of Thomas More, and the figure of Margaret Roper (which dominates the right foreground), two other details are points of focus -- the clock at the top and the small dog at the bottom, both near the centre-line. An unconventional pictorial representation of the artist's name might be a small dog : 'Fetch-the-bone' in English, 'Hol-bein' in German ('holen', 'to fetch' and 'bein', 'bone'). The clock with the open door may be taken to mean that the time had been changed and, from the central placement, that this was an important factor. The impression is that 'obtuseness in the family had come to Holbein's ear'. From the placement of the plate behind the heads of Margaret Clement and Elizabeth Dauncey, the pictorial statement suggests the two women were not at ease with one another since 'être dans son assiette' means, „to be at ease‟ in familiar French or, literally, 'to be in one's plate'. The artist has NOT placed the two heads 'in the plate'. An inquirer may be surprised that 'peony' is a sixteenth century name for a physician (See Note 7) and purple means 'royal' -- thus a royal doctor, or a doctor who is royal. Since the flower stands on the same line as the base of the lower clock weight and the top of the mystery man's hat it suggests that 'Johanes heresius' ('John, the rightful heir') is the doctor in question. Factually, a certain John Clement was indeed a member of More's household, described as a tutor, and was later appointed president of the Royal College of Physicians, but this was many years after the death of Holbein. Unless, of course, it means what it suggests : John Clement was a royal AND a doctor. I have to draw attention that Dr. John Clement gained his M.D. abroad, at the University of Siena, Italy, in March 1525. The placement of the viol marking Elizabeth Dauncey implies "violation" by the royal doctor ('violer', 'to violate'), that she had cuckolded her husband, William Dauncey ('les cornes', the 'horns' of a cuckold) ; and, from direct inspection, that she was visibly pregnant and in maternity clothes. The book of Seneca's Epistolae Elizabeth is carrying under her arm, records the author's commentary on Vices and Virtues. The impression of the singleton glove with the finely embroidered wristband is that a glove apparently lacks the companion of the pair. Curiously, 'le pair lui manque', or 'le père lui manque') means that a woman lacks the father of her child. It is similarly possible, in the case of the famous portrait of Elizabeth I, that the single glove she carries is a most offensive reference by the artist to a parental union unblessed by the Pope ('Le [Saint]-Père lui manque'). If true, in the process of removing her glove (the little finger 'pops-out' when taking off a glove), Elizabeth is revealing her extremities (fingers) or 'extremes of behavior', 'elle nous découvre ses extrémités' in French. The curious curb-shaped little finger or 'doigt courbé' is a homophone of 'doit courber', or 'she must curb her extremes of behavior with fine excuses', taking 'la broderie' in familiar language to mean some sort of elaborate justification or excuse. Elizabeth is unconventionally portrayed in profile. Heads of state and their consorts have been depicted in profile over a considerable period of time, a convention reserved for persons of highest status on medals and coins, not in paintings at this time. We will return to this again. For the present, I have to draw attention that Margaret Roper and Cecily Heron are similarly dressed in maternity clothes and there are reports that eleven „grandchildren‟ were later seen running around the house. Although Elizabeth Dauncey was only married on 29 September 1525, the artist claims the child of the illicit union was born live and Elizabeth miscarried foetuses by her legitimate husband on two separate occasions. Around her waist there is a gold-coloured piece of material knotted underneath her stomach, which falls in two bands at the ends of which are fringes. The unconventional green pattern on the bands appears to represent pronounced and heavy veins such as might be seen on any large animal. 'L'enfant est noué' means, literally, the child is 'knotted' or, in familiar language, 'born with an impediment', implying 'illegitimacy'. CODE: 'Deux traits / ornés / veinés / verts / deux frangés' ('Two bands / gilded / veined / green / two fringes or 'both fringed'), is homophonic substitution and linguistically equivalent in French to CODE : 'Deux trés/ors nés / venaient / verts / d'oeu/f rangé' ('Two treasures, born green, came from the proper egg'). Margaret Clement (similarly in profile) is portrayed with a large 'derrière', a reticule, an elaborate piece of jewellery hanging from her waist and an inexpensive white rabbit-skin cap (the other women have expensive headdress). She is depicted on the left, on the fringe of the family. The meaning of her finger in the spine of the book suggests 'le doigt dans l'épine' or 'she keeps on at him'. This means the royal doctor, presumably, who 'fights' with her, since 'lute' is a homophone of 'lutte' or 'fight'. “VXOR JOHANNIS / CLEMENS” The covered vase is taken to be a reference by the artist to the expression 'vase d'élection' or 'The Chosen One' (a king) and the covering of the vase with a cloth suggests the artist did not like Margaret Clement, he paints her unflatteringly, and his opinion was 'Le vase est couvert', meaning 'The Chosen One is justified' (or 'covered').  The distinct impression is that Margaret is „left on the fringe' of the family and someone else, not the artist, may 'fill in the blank pages'. It seems that Margaret was unfortunately shaped (her reticule is a synonym of 'ridicule'), the elaborate jewel suggesting a certain derogatory pre- Grand Siècle preciousness; and, that she was a 'précieuse'. The placement of the untidy, but by no means unsightly flower arrangement, denotes „an untidy arrangement‟ (her marriage). The artist's inclusion of the purple peony is a reference to the husband of Margaret Clement (Dr. John Clement), presumably, since she is the named wife of John Clement ('uxor Johannis Clemens') and concurrently suggests : 'The doctor who was royal', John Clement, and 'Johanes heresius', were one and the same notional person. This decrypt and interpretation appears to gather substance when it is noticed that the young man in the back room is depicted with the short hairstyle worn only by monks but the monk's tonsure is missing : the 'hair is there' or, (a short step from the pictorial sublime to an English subsidiary) 'Harris-there'. John Harris was indeed Thomas More's secretary over a substantial period of time. The colour of the background against which John Harris's head is portrayed is not a true green but a false green (compared with the true apple green colour of his doublet).  In painters' jargon, the false-green colour depicted is 'vert faux', a homophone of 'vers faux' meaning 'something does not ring true'. Finally, since 'à la griffe on reconnait le lion' („one recognizes the lion by his claw marks‟) may also mean, in familiar French, that 'one recognizes the master by certain characteristics', (for instance, the mark of a potter‟s thumbnail pressed into a clay pot before firing), the claw marks on the pages of the book ('les griffes') suggest the mark of the master painter of Basel, Holbein. The impression is that Doctor John Clement was of royal blood but this was not known by his wife Margaret (the book with the blank pages) ; that his real age in 1527 was not 27 but 54 years (the series of Holbein's paintings with 'waxy' skin : Code for “half-age paintings”) ; and, due to the death of the unknown person of higher status in the same year (the solar eclipse and the purple-and-gold flag iris), Clement was addressed as the rightful heir to the throne (the styling 'heres-ius'). The carpet on the sideboard suggests the covering-up of confidential matters 'cacher la crédence sous le tapis', literally „to hide the sideboard under the carpet‟ (‘crédence’ means „confidential matters‟ in courtly French). The rushes (strewn on the floor) are linguistically equivalent to 'jonchère' or 'rush-strewn', a near-homophone of 'Jean-cher' or 'John-dear' (hidden in the family group). By deduction, it may be seen that the alleged true year of birth of Dr. John Clement is 1473 (1527 minus 54). In this connection, Richard, Duke of York, the younger son of Edward IV, was the only prince born in the male line in 1473 ; and, he and his elder brother, Edward V, were said to have died in or about 1483. This allegation is contained in Thomas More's History of King Richard the Third, written some thirty years later (commenced in 1513 according to nephew William Rastell in the preface of the printed version of the book in Rastell's 1557 edition of More's Workes) and circulated only in manuscript, presumably, before that date.  This book is regarded as a major source for the denigration of King Richard III as the instigator in the murder of the princes, at the ages of about 13 and 10 years, in the Tower of London. From factual material in this painting the present author concludes that Thomas More is alleged to have laid down a smokescreen over the continued existence of the two princes by implying that they died in or about 1483, that the book was a blind and the artist had revealed this in a secret method of communication. It may be seen that the artist depicts only three fingers of More‟s hand at the centre of the painting beneath the red velvet sleeve. More appears to be signaling with three fingers. The elements of the three fingers and the red velvet sleeve may be taken to refer jointly to More's Richard, since '[faire] le Richard (III)' means „he made [or „wrote‟] the book Richard III’, which is a homophone of 'faire le richard', meaning 'to pretend to be a rich man'. It is not at all clear, but since red velvet is a symbol of a rich man and since More has only two sleeves, the impression is that the artist is referring to an odd event in history we have not heard before, perhaps a More family in-joke.  Finally, the artist appears to comment one more time on More's book, the centre piece of this truly arcane composition. From direct inspection, it may be seen that the artist shows Thomas More wearing the "S"-pattern chain usually associated with the Duchy of Lancaster. Conventionally, the central placement reflects the high importance attributed to the chain by the artist. This is surely correct, in substance and in fact. However, whereas the esses are depicted conventionally on the left side of the chest -- upon closer examination it may be observed that the esses have been reversed, reflected mirror images, on the right side of Thomas More. These conventional and unconventional esses and their placement marking More's History of King Richard the Third are simultaneously relevant to a pictorial representation of the words : 'D'un côté -- est-ce (esses) gauche ? De l'autre côté, réflection faite, Est-ce (esses) adroit ('à droite') ?' Or, in familiar English language : 'On the one hand, is it gauche (clumsy) ? On the other hand, upon reflection -- is it adroit (clever) ?' I take this to mean that the artist questions the plan of deception and whether More's attempt to lay down a literary smokescreen by writing the book was clumsy or clever ; and, presumably, time would tell. The conclusion was finally reached that the central placement of More's Richard was the 'confidential matter' referred to by the carpet on the sideboard, that Tudor deception in a previous century was the raison d'être of the portrait, and everything flowed from this point. It was seen that Edward V (b. 1470) is reported by the artist to have died, aged fifty-eight, some five months after the fiftieth birthday of Thomas More, in 1527. Since New Year 1528 began on Lady Day (March 25), it means the death was in mid-July 1528 (all the flowers are in bloom at this time).  Finally, I have to draw attention that the flower selection includes floral symbols of royalty and mourning (fleur-de-lis and irises) and that the odd and enigmatic quality of this remarkable painting reflects, presumably, the sorrow of those who were aware of the royal death ; and, that the witness, Holbein, who was an invited guest living in More's house, between 1526 and 1528, was secretly communicating these matters for posterity.