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George Perfect Harding (c. 1780-1853)

Henry VIII (1491-1547) c.1815

RCIN 421502

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  • Henry VIII was the second son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. He became heir to the throne on the death of his elder brother, Prince Arthur, in 1502 and succeeded his father in 1509. A contemporary observer commented: ‘he speaks good French, Latin and Spanish; is very religious; heard three masses daily when he hunted ... He is extremely fond of hunting, and never takes that diversion without tiring eight or ten horses. He is also fond of tennis.’ Henry's scholarly interests included writing both books and music, and he was a lavish patron of the arts. He was an accomplished player of many instruments and a composer. Many foreign artists were attracted to England during Henry’s reign, and the king developed important collections of portraits of English and European royal personages and of tapestries.

    This is a copy made by George Perfect Harding (c. 1780-1853) in about 1815 of a miniature of Henry VIII by Lucas Horenbout, an artist who came from the Netherlands. Horenbout is first documented as a ‘pictor maker’ in the service of Henry VIII in 1525, when Henry was 34 years old, a year before the original miniature was painted, according to the inscription, which gives the king’s age as 35. At the time when this copy was made, the original was in the collection of the art historian and writer, Horace Walpole, at Strawberry Hill. It is now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. Harding exhibited at the Royal Academy and the Society of British Artists between 1802 and 1840. He worked mainly in London and in country houses, where he made watercolour copies of oil portraits, many painted on a small scale.

    The miniature is inscribed: HR / VIII / ANo / XXXV, the N of ANo in reverse.