King Edward VI

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King Edward VI

attributed to William Scrots
oil on panel, anamorphosis, 1546
16 3/4 in. x 63 in. (425 mm x 1600 mm)
Purchased, 1901
Primary Collection
NPG 1299

On display in Room 1 on Floor 3 at the National Portrait Gallery


The round notch at the right of this painted…

Sitterback to top

  • King Edward VI (1537-1553), Reigned 1547-53. Sitter associated with 48 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • William Scrots (active 1537-1553), Painter. Artist or producer associated with 7 portraits.

This portraitback to top

This portrait of Edward was painted when he was nine, a year before he became king. He is shown in distorted perspective (anamorphosis), a technique designed to display the virtuosity of the painter and amaze the spectator. When viewed from the right Edward can be seen in correct perspective. The portrait is recorded by numerous foreign visitors to Whitehall from the end of the sixteenth-century, it was sold from the royal collection in 1649 for £2.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Tudor Portraits Resource Pack, p. 20
  • Smartify image discovery app
  • Bolland, Charlotte, Tudor & Jacobean Portraits, 2018, p. 95 Read entry

    This portrait shows the young prince Edward in distorted perspective (anamorphosis). This compositional device was designed to display the talent of the painter and amaze the spectator. When viewed from a specific point, the features resolve into a circular portrait suspended above a landscape; with the correct perspective, the inscription becomes legible and reads 'ÆTATIS SUÆ 9' and 'ANo DNI 1546'. Very unusually, the painting retains its original engaged frame, which would have been constructed around the panel before the artist began painting. The frame's survival is probably due to its design, which includes a notch in the righthand edge that provides the reference point for the correct viewing angle; the frame also stored the original iron viewing device (now lost) that extended to show the correct position in which to stand. The artist chose to inscribe his name faintly on the frame: 'guilhelmus pingebat' (Guillim painted it). By far the most prominent Guillim, or William, working at the English court at this time was the Netherlandish artist Guillim Scrots. He had worked at the Habsburg court in Bruges as a painter to Mary of Hungary, the regent of the Netherlands, and made his way to England in 1545, where he became the highest-paid artist at the English court.

  • Bolland, Charlotte; Cooper, Tarnya, The Real Tudors: Kings and Queens Rediscovered, 2014 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 12th September 2014 to 1st March 2015), p. 72
  • Christopher Lloyd; with an essay by Sir Oliver Millar., The Queen's pictures : royal collectors through the centuries, 1991, p. 29 figure 21
  • Cooper, Tarnya, Searching for Shakespeare, 2006 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 2 March - 29 May 2006), p. 41
  • Cooper, Tarnya, Searching for Shakespeare (hardback), 2006 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 2 March - 29 May 2006), p. 41
  • Gittings, Clare, The National Portrait Gallery Book of The Tudors, 2006, p. 17
  • MacLeod, Catharine, Tudor Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery Collection, 1996, p. 20
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 195
  • Simon, Jacob, The Art of the Picture Frame: Artists, Patrons and the Framing of Portraits in Britain, 1997 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 8 November 1996 - 9 February 1997), p. 150 Read entry

    Painted oak, mitred and pegged lap joint, the surface of the frame refinished in black in the late eighteenth century or the nineteenth century, obliterating the signature of the artist on the frame recorded by George Vertue in 1713.1 1 9/16 inches wide, 2 inches deep.

    The round notch at the right of this frame marks the original position of an iron viewing device which pulled out to allow the anamorphosis to be seen from the correct position to avoid distortions in the image. The photograph reproduced here is taken from this position and includes a view of the side of the frame, showing the lap joint at top and bottom. The exceptionally deep but relatively narrow frame, with various grooves and slots in the underside, is explained by the need to accommodate the viewing device.

    1 See Roy Strong, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 1969, pp 88-9.

  • Strong, Roy, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 1969, p. 88
  • Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, pp. 40 - 41 Read entry

    This extraordinary painting shows Prince Edward aged nine years old in an unusual distorted perspective known as ‘anamorphosis’, which was designed to display the virtuosity of the painter and amaze the spectator. Edward was the first and only legitimate son of King Henry VIII and his third wife Jane Seymour. He came to the throne in 1547 and this image was painted a few months before his succession. Scholarly and firmly Protestant, Edward VI ruled during his minority with the help of a council, dominated first by the Duke of Somerset as Lord Protector and later by the Duke of Northumberland. The latter induced Edward to will the crown to Lady Jane Grey before he died, at the age of fifteen, in order to ensure the Protestant succession.

    The picture can be seen in correct perspective when viewed from the right edge of the frame. The frame is original and is inscribed guilhelmus pingebat (William painted this), which may indicate the artist William Scrots (active 1537–53), who succeeded Holbein as court painter in 1545. The beautiful landscape background appears to have been painted by a different artist.

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Mediaback to top


Events of 1546back to top

Current affairs

The Treaty of Ardres ends England's war with France and Scotland. Francis I of France agrees to pay a large pension to King Henry VIII and his successors.
Henry VIII becomes seriously ill.

Art and science

The Dutch artist William Scrots paints Princess Edward (later King Edward VI) using an unusual and virtuoso technique of distorted perspective (anamorphosis).
King Henry VIII founds Trinity College, Cambridge.


The German Protestant reformer Martin Luther dies while attempting to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the mounting tension between German Protestant and Catholic factions. The Schmalkaldic League of Protestant princes prepares for war against the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.

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