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The Royal Portrait

Image and Impact


Henry VIII (1491-1547)


Oil on panel | 99.8 x 74.2 cm (support, canvas/panel/stretcher external) | RCIN 404438

This portrait is a very early derivation of Holbein’s original portrait of Henry VIII, painted in 1537 on the wall of the Privy Chamber at Whitehall which was destroyed by fire in 1698. The wall painting provided the source for many portraits of the King. This portrait may have been painted during Henry VIII’s lifetime, and is still close in technique to Holbein. It is possible that the head is derived from a sitting later than that which formed the basis of the wall painting. The Royal Collection holds a copy after the lost Whitehall mural by Remigius van Leemput, painted in 1667 (RCIN 405750).

The King wears a cloth of gold jerkin cut with a deep U shaped neckline and attached skirts, over a cloth of gold doublet. Over this is a brown gown lined with lynx fur and decorated with gold braid, which is padded at the shoulders to create a wide horizontal silhouette. The sleeves of the gown have slits meaning it can be worn in multiple ways. The doublet is decorated with large rubies and around his neck is a gold collar set with precious stones. He carries gloves in his right hand and rests his left hand on his sword. His black bonnet is decorated with jewels and a white ostrich feather.

The painting appears in Pyne's illustrated 'Royal Residences' of 1819, hanging in The Old Drawing Room at Kensington Palace (RCIN 922153).

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