ENGLISH SCHOOL (c.1530-1540), Portrait of King Henry VIII (1491-1547)
Medium: Oil on oak panel
W 21" (frame 28") × H 28" (frame 34 1/2")
This three-quarter length portrait depicts King Henry VIII (1491-1547) by an English school, painted oil on oak panel. The portrait is derived from a type that was established by Hans Holbein the Younger in his work known as The Whitehall Mural. The wall mural was created in 1537 and was situated in the Privy Chamber of Whitehall Palace before it was destroyed by a fire in 1698. The positioning of Henry is central as he faces the viewer directly, all before a dark flat background. He is attired in an elaborate costume, wearing a dark brown surcoat with an ermine collar, a bejewelled cloth of gold tunic, a flat black cap with a white plume and he holds a pair of gloves in his right hand. The portrait recalls a striking Holbeinesque sense of technique, with a focus on elements of minute detailing, such as the small dashes of white paint that replicates a light reflection of the jewels on his cap. There also seems to be an overall sense of tactility where the rendering of fabric for the gem-encrusted silk robes allow for an incredible depiction of decadence among this courtly portrait. Holbein was later known for his use of the flat, two-dimensional icon and this may have influenced the style here within this portrait. The reign of Henry VIII was a fascinating period for art history, in that he was the only Tudor who embodied a distinct stylistic and artistic taste. It was in his best interest to keep up with the artistic endeavours of the Italian High Renaissance thus he made it a deliberate decision to import craftsmen from Italy and the Low Countries. Who were intrinsic to the development of artistic trade in England, influencing the architecture, painting and decorative arts. The outcome of this allowed for an amalgamation of extravagance and extraordinary detail, that we can interpret here within this portrait as a reflection of the social and aesthetic milieu of the Tudor court.