Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Art Conservation Project
Bank of America Merrill Lynch awarded the National Portrait Gallery funding to undertake essential conservation work on three Tudor portraits from the Gallery’s Collection, through the company’s global Art Conservation Project in 2013.
Work has commenced on the conservation of the three portraits in time for their inclusion in the forthcoming display The Real Tudors: Kings and Queens Rediscovered, which will open in Rooms 1, 2 and 3 at the Gallery on 12 September.
King Edward VI, by an unknown artist after Hans Holbein the Younger, oil on panel (c 1542)
As Henry VIII’s first legitimate son, numerous portraits of the young prince Edward were produced, and these provide an unusually detailed record of his changing appearance throughout his childhood. This portrait was probably painted around 1542, when Edward was five years old. It derives from a likeness taken by Hans Holbein the Younger, which was evidently intended to be circulated more widely as numerous versions exist by other artists. The painting has not been on display for a number of years because its appearance is marred by old retouching in the face and hands, and by layers of darkened varnish. Conservation treatment will allow it to be displayed alongside other portraits of Edward, and discussed in the context of his wider iconography, during The Real Tudors.
First steps of the conservation treatment
The other portraits being conserved are:
Elizabeth I, known as the ‘Phoenix’ portrait, associated with Nicolas Hilliard, (c1575)
This portrait of Elizabeth I is commonly known a the ‘Phoenix Portrait’, after the pendant jewel that the queen wears at her breast. The painting dates from the middle of Elizabeth’s reign, when the queen was in her early forties and the iconography of the ‘Virgin Queen’ was well established. Conservation treatment will remove the layers of discoloured varnish that currently obscure the exquisite details of this portrait and alter the colour balance of the composition.
King Edward & the Pope by an unknown artist, (c1570)
This image of King Edward VI and the Pope was made during the reign of Elizabeth I to commemorate the earlier anti-papal and reforming policies of the young king. The painting depicts Henry VIII on his deathbed, pointing towards his successor Edward VI. To the right of Edward are members of his council, including the Protector, Lord Somerset, and John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland. In the top right hand corner, there is an inset scene of the destruction of holy images, while the Pope is crushed by a book reading ‘THE WORDE OF THE LORD ENDURETH FOR EVER’ at Edward’s feet. The paint surface of this unusual image requires consolidation, which will also allow for the removal of later retouchings that have discoloured and obscure some areas of original paint.
“We recognise the crucial role we can play in economic regeneration, particularly in times when obtaining public funding for the arts is challenging. Through our unique Art Conservation Project we are able to connect capital with need, in order to help museum conservation projects around the world come to fruition. We were very proud to collaborate with the National Portrait Gallery to help conserve these iconic Tudor paintings, and we hope that they will educate and inspire future generations.”
Andrea Sullivan, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility for EMEA at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.