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The Art of Monarchy

A collaboration with BBC Radio 4 to mark Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/8-1543)

Sir Henry Guildford (1489-1532) Dated 1527

RCIN 400046

Wolsey Room 2, Hampton Court Palace

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When the German artist Hans Holbein the Younger arrived in London in 1526, he found his first patrons in the group of intellectuals who surrounded Henry VIII. Among these was Henry Guildford, one of the King’s closest friends and Comptroller of the Royal Household. The two almost certainly worked together in the planning of revels at Greenwich in 1527, when a ‘Master Hans’ carried out much of the decorative painting. Guildford was one of the first in England to commission a portrait from Holbein; both the preparatory drawing and the finished oil painting are in the Royal Collection.

Along with figures like Sir Thomas More, John Colet (Dean of St Pauls) and Archbishop William Warham, Guildford was deeply interested in the developments of humanism, a philosophy which encouraged the study of the sources of knowledge and the reassessment of ideas and ideals. He corresponded with the Dutch humanist and scholar Desiderius Erasmus. Guildford’s scholarly interests may have drawn him to Hans Holbein, who arrived in England with a recommendation from Erasmus. That one of the intellectuals close to the King was painted by one of the greatest portraitists of sixteenth-century Europe reflects the status of Henry VIII’s court as a glowing intellectual and artistic centre.