King Edward VI
- Tudor and Jacobean Portraits Database
King Edward VI
studio of William Scrots
oil on panel, circa 1546
18 5/8 in. x 11 in. (473 mm x 279 mm)
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Key findings: Original dating confirmed. Significant underdrawing probably from a pattern was found with infrared reflectography. Pigment analysis has indicated significant fading in the cloak and tunic.
Purchased by the Gallery from William Bayzand in 1877, the previous history of this work is unknown. Edward VI is shown as Prince of Wales just before he succeeded his father aged nine in 1547.
Notes on likely authorship
This painting is one of many versions of a portrait of Edward VI that may relate to an original work by Scrots. William (or Guillim) Scrots (or Scrotes or Stretes) (active 1537-1553) was appointed King's Painter to Henry VIII in 1546. He continued in this role during the reign of Edward VI. Little else is known of Scrots. He was paid in 1551 for three 'great tables', two of which were portraits of Edward delivered to ambassadors as gifts for foreign monarchs (Strong, 1969, p.87).
Commentary on condition, painting style, technique
The panel is made with a single board and is unpainted around the extreme of the edges, which indicates that it was originally set in an engaged frame. There is a ridge/barbe round the edges where the ground and paint layers were painted up against the frame rebate.
The paint surface is abraded, in particular on the dark red cloak, the hat, tabletop and the book. There are considerable areas of overpaint. The jewels and aglets on the hat and on the chain and the pattern on the cuffs were all originally gold. Gold pigment residues remain on some of these areas but much of this decoration has been abraded. The pigment of the background paint has faded and the oil medium has discoloured. The original colour would have been a brilliant blue. The paint surface has a strong texture of vertical brushstrokes, evidently applied with a stiff brush. Broad brushstrokes of the ground and in areas of thicker paint containing lead-based pigments (for example, in the collar, the feathers, the rose and the hands) are visible in the x-ray. Also evident from the x-ray are highlights in the integrated modelling of the face and scratches in the coat.
Justification for dating
The technique and materials in use are entirely consistent with a work from this period. Analysis of the wooden panel by dendrochronology has indicated that the wood derives from a tree which cannot have been felled before 1529.
Drawing and transfer technique
Infrared reflectography has revealed black and red underdrawing which appears to be have been made from a pattern. The black underdrawing seems to have been applied with a fine brush and is evident in the facial features, the hat and feathers, the edge of the shirt collar and the neckline of the pink tunic. It has been reinforced in several parts with a red material, perhaps to suppress the dark lines of black.
Further underdrawing was carried out with a red material in the hands, the shirt cuffs, part of the collar, the fur and some of the hair and hat feathers. This can be seen through the paint surface and particularly with the microscope. The red underdrawing of the hands is very fine and sketchily applied.
Some slight changes were made at the painting stage. Parts of the painted outline, particularly around the hands and white cuff, do not follow the underdrawing closely.
Relevance to other known versions
The original work by Scrots on which this portrait is probably based is now lost. Versions thought to derive from the same image include:
- a drawing by an unknown artist in the Royal Collection at Windsor
- a half length portrait at Wilton (Earl of Pembroke)
- a version on canvas at Woburn (Duke of Bedford)
- two versions at the V&A
- a version at Knole (National Trust)
From this type Scrots also painted an anamorphic profile of Edward VI (NPG 1299).
Strong, Roy, Tudor & Jacobean Portraits, 1969, p. 87
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The panel is in reasonably good condition. The paint surface is abraded, in particular the dark red/brown jacket, the hat and the book. Residues of shell gold detail remain on the chain, the jewels and aglets (tags) in the hat, at the bottom right on the jacket cuff and on the pink tunic cuffs. The paint has discoloured and faded in the background, the pink tunic, the leaves of the rose and the flesh. There are old scratches in the red/brown jacket. The background and the coat have numerous areas of restoration, which are reasonably well matched. The varnish is even and semi-glossy.
The paint surface is abraded, particularly in the brown jacket, hat and book (see micro 05). There is extensive retouching in these areas, most of which is reasonably well matched. Fine modelling in the jacket sleeve has been worn away, but some fine brushstrokes remain. Despite the abrasion that has occurred, residues of shell gold remain on the chain, aglets (tags), teardrop jewels, brown jacket and the edge of the cuffs. A considerable amount of restoration has been observed in the face, but this is well matched. Generally the appearance of the painting is good, and the condition sound.
Number of boards: 1
Panel Orientation: Vertical
Panel condition observations
The panel has a slight convex warp. Damage at the top left corner has been repaired with a later wood fillet. A little wood is missing at the top and bottom right corners. The left edge is uneven and has woodworm damage and there is also some woodworm damage at the top right edge. The panel was evidently set in an engaged frame before ground and paint layers were applied. The wood remains unpainted around the edges. The chalk ground runs out over the unpainted wood where it ran under the frame when it was applied. There is a ridge/barbe round the edges where the ground and paint layers were painted up against the frame rebate.
An examination of tree rings, which can help to provide the earliest possible felling dates for the wood used for the panel. The technique can also indicate the geographical origin of the wood.
Number of boards: 1
Last date of tree ring: 1529
The date of the last heartwood ring in the single board panel is 1529, with a further two rings of sapwood present at the upper edge of the board. Adding the minimum and maximum expected number of sapwood rings suggests that that the tree was felled after 1537 and before 1553. The width of the board is typical or slightly wider than the majority of full-width boards seen in panel paintings, which suggests that the board cannot have been trimmed.
A technique used to identify changes in composition beneath the surface of the paint layers and to understand the physical structure of a panel or canvas.
Broad brushstrokes of the priming can be seen in the x-ray (see x-ray mosaic 01). Brushstrokes in areas of thicker paint containing lead-based pigments can be seen in x-ray: the collar, the feathers, the rose, the hands. Highlights in the integrated modelling of the face are evident. There are dense areas in the coat and in the background in front of the face. The scratches (not original) in the coat are evident.
A technique used to observe the layers beneath the paint surface which can reveal underdrawing and changes to the initial design.
Both red and black underdrawing can be seen with surface examination. Infrared reflectography shows black underdrawing in the features, hat, feathers, the edge of the shirt collar and the neckline of the pink tunic (see IRR mosaic 02). The black seems to have been applied with a fine brush and to have been transferred from a pattern. Further underdrawing was carried out with a red medium (see Surface examination).
Investigation into microscopic pigment samples or samples of other media in order to help with dating, to reveal the order of the paint layers and help to understand the painting techniques used.
Paint samples were taken to analyse the pigments and layer structure of the painting in February 2008
The ground is composed of a single layer of chalk. Around the edges of the panel small craters can be seen in the exposed ground, which were presumably formed by bubbles as the panel was being prepared. In one of the cross-sections taken from the brown coloured cloak, an undulating surface can be seen in the ground layer. This may be the result of cratering or burst bubbles in the chalk, and indicates that the bubbles may well run under the whole painting. The broad brushstrokes of the lead based priming can be seen in x-ray.
The orange coloured hair was sampled as a small dispersion (see Sample 9). As expected, the paint mixture was composed of a mixture of earth pigments; large particles of sienna, yellow ochre, smaller fragments of red ochre and a brown which has a slightly organic appearance. These were all mixed in to lead white.
Underlayer beneath costume
A lead white layer of variable thickness can be seen in cross-section above the ground and beneath the upper paint layers in a number of samples taken from the pink tunic and brown jacket (see Samples 2 and 8). This layer has not been observed in cross-sections taken from the background, the flesh and the hat.
The colour of the outer cloak has a dark red/brown appearance, painted with reddish highlights, and almost black shadows. This was painted with black and red pigments in subtle gradations. The black appears to be lamp black in dispersion and is mixed with red earth. Energy dispersive x-ray microanalysis showed that no vermilion was present in the part of the cloak tested, and it may be assumed that good quality red ochre and lamp black would have been used throughout. A sample taken from the lighter red highlights in the jacket, showed the same mixture of lamp black and red ochre, with the addition of what appeared to be yellow ochre. The pink tunic was painted with a red lake and lead white pigment mixture, above a lead white underlayer and chalk ground. The pink tunic originally had a much deeper tone. The intensity of the original pink can be judged from remnants of a strong crimson, underneath traces of gold patterning at the edge of the cuff. It seems likely that a layer of pure crimson lake was used to provide modelling in the shadows of the sleeve over the pink.
The background, which is now a dirty brownish green colour, was once blue. The paint mixture is composed of smalt and lead white. Sample 1, taken from the background at the right edge shows strongly toned, evenly ground blue particles in the lower portion of the sample. These particles are densely packed together with lead white, and sit directly above the chalk ground layer.
The background has a streaky appearance, which is the result of the method application by which the paint was manipulated into fine ridges of blue, running in a predominantly vertical direction. Such a technique has been noted elsewhere, in the portraits of Edward VI, attributed to Scrots in the Compton Verney and Victoria and Albert Museum collections. It would be interesting to analyse the medium of this smalt layer, since it reacted to the water employed in the polishing process, and may have a water soluble medium.
The brown leaves of the rose were sampled (see Sample 5). The results of this analysis suggest that the leaves were painted with a copper green glaze, and were once a translucent, bottle green colour. As is often seen with aged copper green paint films, this green has discoloured to a brownish green colour. Surface examination suggests that there is a green layer composed of verdigris and lead-tin yellow beneath this green glaze.
Energy dispersive x-ray microanalysis undertaken on a sample from the red/brown jacket has confirmed the presence of gold in this area. Surface examination also identified gold in a number of other areas (see Surface examination), although this appears to be shell gold and not mordant gilding as Libby Sheldon suggests.
An examination of the construction of paint layers, glazes and condition often using a microscope. This method provides important evidence concerning an artist’s technique and paint handling and can reveal a specific artist’s characteristic painting style.
Painting style and method
The panel was prepared with a white chalk ground. There are numerous bubbles in the ground, which can be seen at the edges of the panel, where it flowed beneath the engaged frame during the production process (see micro 21). There is a pale priming over the chalk ground.
Both red and black underdrawing can be seen with surface examination, and black is evident with infrared reflectography (see Infrared reflectography). The underdrawing is visible beneath the upper paint layers in many areas. The transparency of the oil medium has increased with time, making the underdrawing more visible than intended but it appears likely that it was always intended to show through the paint in certain areas; for example, in the sitter's right palm where the red underdrawing has been used to define the skin-folds of the hand. It is not clear whether the underdrawing was done with a dry or liquid medium.
The layer structure of this work is relatively simple, with reasonably flat, thin applications of paint. Fine details such as highlights, individual hairs and feathers were added using delicate brushstrokes. The paint in the features and hands was thinly applied and later reinforced with a more opaque, dark flesh tone to provide definition and deep shadows. In contrast to the smooth, flat paint in most areas, the three dimensionality of the white hairs of the cloak lining and of the feather was described with thicker more impasted paint.
White chalk ground. There are bubbles in the chalk, as seen around the edges of the panel (see micro 21).
There is a pale priming, which can be seen in x-ray.
The black underdrawing defines the features, hat, feathers, white shirt cuff and tunic neckline (see micro 01, micro 08, micro 23 and micro 26). It appears to have been reinforced with red underdrawing in some areas (eye, hairline and back of the white collar) and was probably laid over the black to suppress the dark black lines. It is difficult to determine whether the red is above or below the black underdrawing, but optical microscopy seems to suggest that the red is above.
Further underdrawing, independent of the black, was carried out in the hair and feathers with red chalk (see micro 08 and micro 12). The hands, shirt cuffs and part of the collar, the fur and some of the hair and hat feathers are drawn rather fluently with fine red lines. This drawing can be seen through the paint surface, particularly with magnification.
The version of this image of Edward VI in the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A 493-1882) is also underdrawn with both red and black underdrawing. Tracings (on thick melinex) of the drawing visible on the surface of both versions were made for comparison. The underdrawing in the faces corresponds very closely, suggesting that the same pattern was used for both works. Interestingly, although the dimensions of the panels differ to a reasonably significant degree (the Victoria and Albert Museum version being smaller by 45 mm in length and 25 mm in width), the proportions of the main features such as the hands and head are very similar. When the tracings of the hands were laid above each other, it was clear that although they do not match up as precisely as the underdrawing seen in the face, they follow each other extremely closely.
Although many similarities in underdrawing have been observed between the portrait at the Victoria and Albert Museum and that at the National Portrait Gallery, the areas where red and black materials have been located, differ between the two versions. For example, in the National Portrait Gallery portrait, black underdrawing appears to be restricted to the upper portion of the work, where as red underdrawing was used for the fur lining of the cloak, above the black in a few areas in the head/hair, a little in the feather and entirely in the hands and cuffs. In contrast, the Victoria and Albert Museum's version appears to have been underdrawn to a greater extent with red: in the head, feather, hands and neckline. Black lines have been observed in the hands, along the inside line of the fur collar and to a lesser degree in the face and feather. This indicates that although the dimensions of the two panels differ, both heads and pairs of hands were likely to have been transferred from the same patterns.
The painted outlines do not appear to follow the underdrawing precisely.
The flesh appears to have been painted directly over the white ground, with an initial pale, flat flesh tone. This layer appears to continue beneath the hair and feather, providing a pale base-layer (see micro 08 and micro 12). The eye, nose, lips and ear were then very finely and smoothly applied over the base flesh colour (see micro 01, micro 23 and micro 26). The grey paint in the iris appears to be a mixture of black, white, vermilion and smalt. The contours of the features and hands were defined with a thin red/brown paint, composed of black and vermilion (see micro 12 and micro 23).
The first layer of the hair was laid in with very thin, flat brushstrokes using earth pigments and an organic-looking brown (see micro 08 and Paint sampling). Details such as the dark strands of hair were smoothly applied over the base hair colour, followed by the dark brown teardrop shaped jewels in the feather (see micro 03).
With surface examination and in paint sample cross-section a lead white layer can be seen over the ground and beneath the upper paint layers of the pink tunic and dark red cloak. This was applied more thinly beneath the cuffs and fur lining of the cloak. A very thin application of the same white, with a little black added was also applied above the flesh paint in the collar at this stage, creating a cool, translucent fabric tone (see micro 15). No lead white layer was observed beneath the flesh, the hat or the background. These areas seem to have been painted directly over the white chalk ground.
The pink tunic was painted with a red lake and lead white mixture, thinly applied over the white underlayer (see Sample 2). Additional layers of deep red lake glaze were painted over the pink layer. The red lake has faded. The original colour of the lake glaze is visible in small areas around the trim of the cuffs, where the deep colour has been preserved beneath remaining fragments of shell gold, which was applied at a later stage in the original painting process (see below and micro 06 and micro 21). Opaque white highlights were used to define details, such as folds and fine hairs, in the white collar, cuffs, fur lining (to the jacket) and feather (see micro 15 and micro 24).
The dark red cloak was applied after the pink tunic and fur trim, leaving the red/brown highlights to be added at a later stage in the painting process. There are scratches in the paint surface and considerable abrasion. The extensive restoration in this area is well-matched. The red/brown highlights of the cloak were applied with smoothly blended brushstrokes over the underlying paint, creating a sense of texture and three-dimensionality. Much of this has suffered abrasion. The paint mixture includes red ochre, lamp black and yellow ochre.
The same dark brown paint as was used for the hair was then used to paint the chain around the sitter's neck, and in both cases the brown was applied wet-in-wet to the white highlights (see micro 04 and micro 09).
The purple book was added at this stage. Old restoration covers much the surface paint, but with optical microscopy the original paint mixture can be seen between the sitter's fingers (see micro 20). The original purple paint mixture appears to contain red (vermilion), lead white, smalt and large particles of a darker red pigment (red earth).
As with many areas of this work, the dark brown/black hat has suffered much abrasion and has been restored. This area was laid in after the background, with a paint mixture composed of earth pigments, black and red earth. The aglets were applied with thick, opaque paint, composed of vermilion, red earth, black and ochre. Above this, shell gold was applied to the aglets to create small glistening highlights (see micro 07).
A thin, pale grey base-layer was applied above the hair with a paint mixture composed of lead white, black, vermilion, smalt and red earth (untested). In the feather on the hat, the white paint used for highlights is significantly thicker than elsewhere and was applied in a stippled textured manner (see micro 16) to give a sense of three dimensionality.
The background was painted with a mixture of smalt and lead white (see micro 19). It appears to have been applied in fine vertical ridges (see micro 18), applied with a narrow tool such as a graining tool. The pigment has discoloured and the oil medium has darkened, lending a dull grey appearance to the surface colour. Interestingly, a similar technique was used in the backgrounds of two other known profile portrait versions of Edward VI. These works, which are also attributed to Scrots and/or circle of Scrots can be found at Compton Verney and the Victoria and Albert Museum.
This was applied over the blue background paint with a paint mixture composed of lead white, vermilion and red lake. The leaves and stalk were then painted with what appears to be a mixture of verdigris and lead-tin yellow, with a copper green glaze applied above. This upper green glaze appears to have discoloured to a brown tone. Much of the rose has been glazed with non-original restoration, particularly in the leaves and stem.
The shell gold decoration appears to have been the final addition to the painting. Fragments of this gold can be found on the teardrop shaped jewels in the feather, aglets and chain (see micro 03, micro 04 and micro 07). In these areas, the gold was almost certainly used to create individual highlights, and would not have covered the underlying brown paint entirely. Microscopic examination revealed small remaining fragments of shell gold decoration along the edge of the proper left pink cuff and along the edge of the brown sleeve at the lower right-hand. In all of these areas the shell gold has been heavily abraded (see micro 06 and micro 21), and is not easily visible without magnification.
Order of construction
- White chalk ground
- Pale priming
- Black underdrawing
- Red underdrawing
- The flesh
- Underlayer beneath costume
- Hair and feather
- Opaque white highlights
- Contours of the face and hands defined
- Red/brown highlights of the cloak
- Dark strands of hair
- Fine details
- Shell gold decoration
Lead white, smalt, red lake, lamp black, vermilion, copper green glaze, verdigris, red earth, earth pigments, lead-tin yellow
Changes to composition/pentimenti
Some slight changes were made at the painting stage in some outlines of the features and costume. The painted outlines do not always follow the underdrawing.
A method which helps to reveal past restoration and the extent of varnish layers.
Examination in ultra violet light shows extensive restoration in the cloak and the background, and there are scattered retouchings over the rest of the costume and the flesh (see UV 01). The retouchings in the background appear to belong to two different campaigns. The majority are beneath the slightly opaque varnish layer but some appear darker in ultra violet light and were applied later than the majority of the restoration. The jewels in the feather appear dark in ultra violet light but most do not appear to be heavily restored. The dark appearance may be due to the properties of the particular pigment used.