John Bourchier, 2nd Baron Berners
John Bourchier, 2nd Baron Berners
by Unknown Netherlandish artist
oil on panel, circa 1520-1530
19 1/2 in. x 15 1/2 in. (495 mm x 394 mm)
Purchased with help from the Art Fund and H.M. Government, 1973
Sitterback to top
- John Bourchier, 2nd Baron Berners (1467-1533), Statesman and writer. Sitter in 1 portrait.
This portraitback to top
Lord Berners served Henry VIII as Chancellor of the Exchequer, assisted in the negotiations for an alliance with Spain two years later, and attended the king at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520. While serving as Lord Deputy of Calais he devoted his leisure hours, at Henry's suggestion, to translating the French historian Froissart's Chronicles. This portrait, which so perceptively characterises this able and cultivated man, was almost certainly painted by a Flemish artist during Berners' residence in Calais, and is a rare early example of an Englishman sitting for his portrait while abroad. The significance of the fruit, thought to be an apple, which Berners holds has yet to be discovered.
Linked publicationsback to top
- Bolland, Charlotte, Tudor & Jacobean Portraits, 2018, p. 92 Read entry
A solider, scholar and diplomat, John Bourchier, 2nd Baron Berners, was made Chancellor of the Exchequer by Henry VIII in 1516 after distinguishing himself at the siege of Thérouanne in 1513. While serving as Lord Deputy of Calais, he produced, at the king's request, a translation of the French historian Jean Froissart's chronicles of the Hundred Years' War between England and France. Berners is depicted holding a piece of fruit in his right hand, in a pose that was common to a number of early sixteenth-century portraits produced in continental Europe; this portrait was most likely painted during Berners' residence in Calais. However, the significance of the fruit is difficult to interpret as it has been identified variously as a lemon, a quince and an apple. As a lemon, it may be intended as a safeguard against disease and therefore serve as a symbol of gratitude for survival after a period of plague. However, it is perhaps most likely to be a quince, which could also be known as a golden apple. This emblem featured prominently at the ceremonial festivities at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520, which Berners attended, where it was carried by Discord as a symbol of conflict, in reference to Paris' presentation of the golden apple from the garden of the Hesperides to Aphrodite before the Trojan War.
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 53
Events of 1520back to top
Current affairsThe 'Field of Cloth of Gold' - an elaborately staged meeting between the courts of King Henry VIII and Francis I of France takes place near Calais.
Art and scienceThe German gunsmith Gaspard Kotter invents rifling in the barrels of firearms, improving their range and accuracy.
InternationalThe German Protestant reformer Martin Luther publicly burns the Papal bull Exsurge Domine (Arise, O Lord), written in response to his 95 Theses. Luther is subsequently excommunicated.
The Stockholm Bloodbath - Danish troops massacre Swedish nobles and churchmen opposed to the rule of Christian II of Denmark.
Death of Selim I and succession of Suleiman I as Sultan of the Ottoman Empire.
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