Holbein’s painting “The Ambassadors” more clearly illustrates a relationship with the book after finishing James’ book. Its hard to believe that the painting was done some 25 years before the book.
Strether’s role as an ambassador is clearly not his suited role. He has not only given up on his ultimate mission of bringing Chad back home but in fact tries to convince him to stay. He is unhappy with his own life and bends to constraints of his world.
However the poor man in the painting takes a side angle view of that “anamorphosis” skull and realizes that death is inevitable rich or poor. In his conversation with Bilham we see that Strether has a change of hearts and a fresh perspective that one must live life to the fullest. Simply being alive isn’t necessarily living and must decipher the two in order to achieve their potential. In this sense I feel that Strether is the ultimate ambassador. He becomes an ambassador for himself. Holbein’s painting represents travel and wealth, the difference in classes and the fact that whether its in one’s conscious or not, death is waiting for us all. However it takes a certain presence of mind to realize this even when “death” is pleasantly presented as a harmless blur sneering in our face.