The portraits were all done as sketches preparing for paintings, but I think his drawings are gorgeous in their own right. I'll be going to the National Gallery on Friday for a drawing class, and can look at some of his paintings there.
Today I did these sketches from a book of portrait drawings by Hans Holbein. (The book cost me fifty cents at the Friends of Montgomery County Library used bookstore. Fifty cents! Used bookstores are a total treasure trove!) Every one of the drawings in the book is fascinating, and as I was working with them, I began to notice that rather than being chiaroscuro drawings with complex shading, the drawings are really elegant line drawings that delineate the subject's features with an economy that is brilliant.
Each portrait has a history lesson in it too; Holbein was actually a portraitist in the service of King Henry VIII, and he drew pictures of many of the key figures during that time as part of his service to the king (Sir Thomas More and Anne Boleyn are the subjects of today's drawings). The king even sent Holbein out to make pictures of potential brides, so I suppose Holbein had to be spot-on accurate in rendering a likeness.
Some of the lines in the Holbein drawings have been reinforced with ink; apparently, it's not clear whether Holbein did this, or whether it was done afterwards. I like the effect, though.