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Holbein at the Tudor Court Opens at The Queen’s Gallery

Release date: Friday 10 November 2023

Drawings and paintings by Hans Holbein the Younger on display©

More than 50 works by Hans Holbein the Younger from the Royal Collection, including drawings, paintings, and miniatures, have gone on display at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace from today.

Holbein at the Tudor Court brings together more than 100 objects to chart the career and legacy of the great Renaissance artist at Henry VIII’s court. The exhibition tells the story of Holbein’s time in England, navigating the shifting sands of religious reform and political intrigue to rise to the position of king’s painter and create the enduring images of Henry VIII and his circle that we know today.

At the heart of the exhibition are more than 40 of Holbein’s intimate portrait drawings of the royal family and the Tudor nobility, from Jane Seymour to Sir Thomas More. Drawn from life during personal sittings in preparation for finished paintings, these closely observed studies imbue their subjects with a remarkable lifelike quality, bringing the viewer as close as they will ever come to the men and women of Henry VIII’s court.

Among Holbein’s earliest royal portraits is a drawing of Anne Boleyn, one of the few surviving depictions drawn from life. Her informal gown suggests that this may have been a preparatory drawing for a miniature, intended to be held in the hand and viewed privately by her husband rather than displayed on a wall.

Visitors will be encouraged to look closely at the tiny details that make Holbein’s portraits so lifelike, and to discover how the artist manipulated his materials to achieve them – from mottled chalk reflecting the broken veins in an old man’s cheek (John More) to the smallest touches of white heightening to suggest the luminosity of a woman’s skin (Elizabeth, Lady Vaux).

Hans Holbein the Younger, Derich Born, 1533©

One of Holbein’s most striking painted portraits is that of Derich Born, a 23-year-old Steelyard merchant. Recent conservation, undertaken in partnership with the Getty Conservation Institute, has revealed the clear imprint of a thumb – probably Holbein’s – at the left edge of the panel, suggesting that the paint may have taken longer to dry than he expected. In two supplementary spaces within the Gallery, visitors will be able to learn more about this conservation project, as well as finding out more about Holbein’s materials and techniques.

Through paintings and decorative arts ranging from a Brussels tapestry to jewel-like miniatures, the exhibition will demonstrate the vibrant international artistic culture that Holbein found on his arrival in England. A highlight will be Henry VIII’s magnificent armour, which was famously designed to be adjustable, to accommodate the King’s expanding waistline.

From Hans Eworth to Nicholas Hilliard, paintings and miniatures on display will demonstrate how Tudor artists continued to look to Holbein for inspiration after his death, cementing his reputation as the image-maker of the Tudor court.

Holbein at the Tudor Court
Exploring the art of Hans Holbein, the image-maker of the Tudor court.

The income from your ticket contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Royal Collection Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities.