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King Henry VIII in Contemporary Portraits
Portraits of King Henry VIII
painted from life
( or close to his lifetime)
Painting from series similar to the Henry Walker Gallery painting below
Full Length Portaits
Our most enduring image of King Henry VIII was painted in 1537 when he was 46 years old by Hans Holbein: the Whitehall mural.
This iconic representation of King Henry VIII is the one image that has been copied in nearly every other portrait painted of him since. Hence the reason most of us can only imagine Henry as this large square shaped man with his sturdy legs akimbo. We have no full length portraits of the young prince.
(The original was lost in a fire at Whitehall Palace & only half of the original cartoon survives and is housed at the National Portrait Gallery in London)
By Lucas Horenbout, c.1526
Miniature c. 1530's
Cameo of Henry & his son, Edward
by an unknown English School artist from 1520
It is described as "the finest portrait of the king to survive from the period before the arrival of Hans Holbein at the Royal Court"
A Verse written by Charles Brandon can be found on the back of this portrait, commenting the failed diplomatic meeting between Henry and Francis I. at the Field of the Cloth of Gold.
It was auctioned at Sotheby's in 2001, the current owner is unknown.
Large Family Portraits:
The Whitehall Mural (so called because it was housed at the Whitehall Palace)
The original mural was destroyed in a fire which destroyed most of Whitehall Palace in 1698. The story has it that a maid had left laundry to dry in front of a fire. Fortunately, King Charles II had commissioned the Flemish painter Remigius van Leemput to make a copy of the mural in 1667. Leemput's copy is now a part of the Queen's collection at Hampton Court Palace.
This was painted after Jane Seymour's death, around the time he was last married. Here Henry intends to show what he considered to be his true family, including his 'true' wife - Jane Seymour, his third Queen and (most importantly) mother of his only surviving son and heir, Edward. Behind Henry VIII is Henry VII, of the House of Lancaster, father of the Tudor Dynasty. Behind Jane Seymour is Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV and heir to the Plantagenet line of England.
The Whitehall mural was probably used as propaganda to reinforce the strength of the Tudor dynasty and Henry VIII’s total authority. The political turmoil of the period and the establishment of Henry VIII’s total rule over both Church and State is the context through which the mural should be viewed. The portrait conveys the immense power and authority of Henry VIII which is achieved without traditional symbols of royalty such as a crown or sceptre, but instead through Henry VIII’s pose, facial expression and visible symbols of his immense wealth such as his costume and jewellery. Henry VIII’s fatness here is a sign of his power, with his barrel chest and his feet placed firmly apart. His hand hovers near his dagger and he fixes us with his cruel gaze. Today, it is easy to forget the absolute terror that such a portrait would have struck into the hearts of Henry VIII’s subjects.
This rare portrait, dating from 1650 to 1680, was recently found in the Duke of Buccleuch's collection
at Boughton House.It shows Henry VIII with his son Edward VI and daughters Elizabeth I & Mary I,
and his jester, Will Somers. It is a copy of an original panel painting, which is thought to date back to the early 1550s.
The portrait was examined by historians Alison Weir and Tracy Borman after they were told of its existence by the director of Boughton House. Tracy Borman said that when she was first sent a picture of the portrait she realised it had never been seen before. "The more we found out, the more obvious it was that nobody had come across this. It's clearly a copy of a lost original and it's that mystery that we started to try to solve. It's also a very different look to Elizabeth and comparing it to other portraits it helps us to solve the identity of other portraits - for example one always known as the Unknown Lady in the National Portrait Gallery." The finding was reported in the June 2008 edition of the BBC History Magazine.
Allegory of the Tudor Succession (Sudeley Castle), c. 1572
The Family of Henry VII: (from bottom left to right)
King Henry VII,
Queen Elizabeth of York,
Elizabeth (1492 - 1495),
Katherine (born and died 1503),
Queen Elizabeth (died in labor)
Paintings of Events:
Henry on the left meeting Francis I
Painting of the Field of Cloth of Gold - 1520
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