Unknown woman, formerly known as Catherine Howard

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Unknown woman, formerly known as Catherine Howard

after Hans Holbein the Younger
oil on panel, late 17th century
29 in. x 19 1/2 in. (737 mm x 495 mm)
Purchased, 1898
Primary Collection
NPG 1119

Sitterback to top

  • Catherine Howard (circa 1518-1542), Fifth Queen Consort of Henry VIII. Sitter associated with 12 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Hans Holbein the Younger (1497 or 1498-1543), Painter, printmaker and designer; son of Hans Holbein the Elder. Artist or producer associated with 310 portraits, Sitter associated with 25 portraits.

This portraitback to top

This portrait was previously identified as Catherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII. The sitter is now thought to be a member of the Cromwell family, perhaps Elizabeth Seymour (c.1518–1568), sister of Henry VIII’s third wife, Jane Seymour, and wife of Thomas Cromwell’s son Gregory.
Based on a three-quarter length portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger (now in the Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio), technical analysis has dated this wooden panel to the late seventeenth century. The sitter's gold medallion shows the flight of Lot and his family from Sodom (Genesis 19) and was designed by Holbein; the drawing survives in the British Museum.

Related worksback to top

  • NPG D48134: Unknown woman, formerly known as Catherine Howard (source portrait)

Linked publicationsback to top

Events of 1670back to top

Current affairs

Charles II mistress, Barbara Villiers, is created Duchess of Cleveland and granted Nonsuch Palace including its sizeable grounds.
Actress and royal mistress, Nell Gwyn, gives birth to Charles II's son, Charles, who would later become, Duke of St. Albans.

Art and science

Tragicomedy, The Forc'd Marriage, by Aphra Behn, staged by the Duke's Company, starts Behn's career as a professional writer. The writer may have been a royalist spy towards the end of the interregnum.
Poet laureate, John Dryden, is made historiographer royal, a post he would hold for nearly 20 years.


Terms of a secret treaty between Charles II and Louis XIV are brought by Henrietta, Duchess of Orleans during a visit to Dover; upon England supplying the majority of military power for a war against Holland and Charles's official conversion to Catholicism, France would assist financially.

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Howard Jones

05 May 2016, 16:36

I know that curators can be reluctant to change the names on the Museum's portraits but in this instance as the sitter is Catherine Howard the original name should be restored.
The right hand corner of her mouth is odd twisting both up and down at the same time. The same feature was shown by Holbein in the Windsor miniature of Queen Catherine.
A series of paintings called Anne Boleyn were based on the Weston Park drawing of Catherine by Holbein.
Some of the engravings showing Catherine are very similar to earlier engravings of Anne Boleyn and have caused confusion. The pictures in which the dresses appear to be studded with jewels date from the time of Catherine as shown in her Holbein miniature at Windsor.

Howard Jones

12 December 2015, 16:22

This Lady is Catherine Howard. I have sent some information to the Toledo Museum which hopefully should be sufficient to confirm that the original Toledo portrait was and is Holbein's painting of Queen Catherine. I hope to hear back from the Museum soon. If they agree to re-identify this Lady as Henry's fifth wife iI will let you k now.