Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex

after Hans Holbein the Younger
oil on panel, early 17th century, based on a work of 1532-1533
30 3/4 in. x 24 3/8 in. (781 mm x 619 mm)
Purchased, 1914
Primary Collection
NPG 1727

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

Sitterback to top

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 is an early seventeenth-century version of an original by Hans Holbein in the Frick Collection, New York, and belonged to Cromwell's descendants.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 100 Portraits, p. 15
  • Smartify image discovery app
  • Bolland, Charlotte, The Tudors Passion, Power and Politics, 2022, p. 40
  • 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. 39
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 208
  • Strong, Roy, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 1969, p. 113
  • Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 34 Read entry

    The principal architect of the annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage to Katherine of Aragon and the subsequent break with Rome, Thomas Cromwell was a statesman who rose to power as the right-hand man of Cardinal Wolsey. A brilliant administrator and legal and evangelical reformer, he later negotiated Henry’s fourth marriage to Anne of Cleves. The failure of this enterprise, and accusations of treason, led to his execution.

    After he had become Master of the Jewels in 1532, Cromwell sat to Holbein the Younger (1497/8–1543). Recent technical analysis confirms that this portrait is an early seventeenth-century version of an original by Holbein in the Frick Collection, New York. This painting belonged to Cromwell’s descendants and was probably produced either when the original portrait was sold, or for display in a different family property.

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1532back to top

Current affairs

A convocation of English clergy ratifies Thomas Cromwell's Submission of the English Clergy, thereby surrendering all control of the English Church to King Henry VIII. Sir Thomas More resigns as Lord Chancellor in protest.
Pope Clement VII threatens to excommunicate King Henry VIII.
Anne Boleyn is made Marchioness of Pembroke.

Art and science

Thomas Cromwell's miniature portrait is painted, probably by the German artist Hans Holbein the Younger.
The first collected edition of Geoffrey Chaucer's works is published by William Thynne.


Suleiman I, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire invades Hungary and fails to conquer Vienna for a second time.
The Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro defeats and captures Atahulpa, emperor of the Incas.

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Calan McGreevy

10 February 2016, 08:05

According to the novelist Hilary Mantel, the book is a volume on how to keep books, by the monk, Pacioli. It was sent to Cromwell by friends from Venice. It was 'the best book in his collection'. It was a 'heavy volume, bound in blackish-green: the leather tooled in gold, the pages gilt-edged'.