King Henry VIII; King Henry VII
3 of 66 portraits of King Henry VII
King Henry VIII; King Henry VII
by Hans Holbein the Younger
ink and watercolour, circa 1536-1537
101 1/2 in. x 54 in. (2578 mm x 1372 mm)
Accepted in lieu of tax by H.M. Government and allocated to the Gallery, 1957
Sittersback to top
Artistback to top
- Hans Holbein the Younger (1497 or 1498-1543), Painter, printmaker and designer; son of Hans Holbein the Elder. Artist associated with 315 portraits, Sitter associated with 25 portraits.
This portraitback to top
To commemorate the strength and triumphs of the Tudor dynasty, Henry VIII commissioned from Holbein a wall-painting for Whitehall Palace; this was completed in 1537. The immediate impetus for the commission may have been the birth or the expectation of the birth of Henry's son Edward, later Edward VI, in October 1537. The mural may have been in Henry's Privy Chamber and therefore have had a select, restricted audience rather than being an image of wider propaganda. This very large drawing is the preparatory drawing or cartoon for the left-hand section of that wall-painting, and shows Henry with his father Henry VII, the founder of the dynasty. The right-hand section showed Henry VIII's third wife Jane Seymour (1509?-37) and his mother Elizabeth of York (1465-1503). Holbein's painting was destroyed in the Whitehall Palace fire of 1698, and the cartoon for the right-hand side section is lost. The appearance of the whole painting is however recorded in a mid-seventeenth century copy by Remegius van Leemput in the Royal Collection. The cartoon is executed in black ink and watercolour on several sheets of paper joined together. The figures and faces of the kings are cut-outs pasted on to the backing paper. The cartoon is exactly the same size as the finished painting and was used to transfer Holbein's design to its intended position on the palace wall. To do this the cartoon was pricked along the main outlines of the composition and then fixed in the intended position on the wall. Chalk or charcoal dust was then brushed into the holes made by pricking, thus transferring the outline to the wall. Holbein could then proceed with filling in his design.
Linked publicationsback to top
- Tudor Portraits Resource Pack, p. 9
- National Portrait Gallery: 100 Portraits, p. 14
- Audio Guide
- 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. 26
- 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. 52
- Cannadine, Sir David (Introduction); Cooper, Tarnya; Stewart, Louise; MacGibbon, Rab; Cox, Paul; Peltz, Lucy; Moorhouse, Paul; Broadley, Rosie; Jascot-Gill, Sabina ., Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits, 2018 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, USA, 7 October 2018 -3 February 2019. Bendigo Art Gallery, Australia, 16 March - 14 July 2019.), p. 43
- Cooper, John, A Guide to the National Portrait Gallery, 2009, p. 9
- Cooper, John, Visitor's Guide, 2000, p. 13
- Cooper, Tarnya; Fraser, Antonia (foreword), A Guide to Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 2012, p. 26
- Gittings, Clare, The National Portrait Gallery Book of The Tudors, 2006, p. 9
- John Cooper, National Portrait Gallery Visitor's Guide, 2006, p. 13
- John Cooper, National Portrait Gallery Visitor's Guide, 2006, p. 6
- MacLeod, Catharine, Tudor Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery Collection, 1996, p. 9
- MacLeod, Catharine (preface, appreciation) Wilks, Timothy (introduction) Smuts, Malcolm (appreciation) MacGibbon, Rab (appendix), The Lost Prince: The Life and Death of Henry Stuart, 2012 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 18 October 2012 to 13 January 2013), p. 34
- Piper, David, The English Face, 1992, p. 22
- Rogers, Malcolm, Master Drawings from the National Portrait Gallery, 1993 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 5 August to 23 October 1994), p. 13
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 297
- Schama, Simon, The Face of Britain: The Nation Through its Portraits, 2015-09-15, p. 31
- Strong, Roy, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 1969, p. 150
- Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 36
Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top
- The Real Tudors: Kings and Queens Rediscovered (12 September 2014 - 1 March 2015)
Subjects & Themesback to top
Events of 1536back to top
Current affairsAnne Boleyn miscarries a male child. She is accused of adultery and beheaded for High Treason. Henry marries Jane Seymour eleven days after the Anne's death.
The Act of Succession declares Mary and Elizabeth illegitimate.
The Act of Suppression marks the beginning of the dissolution of the monasteries.
Pilgrimage of Grace popular rising against Henry VIII's Church reforms and the economic effects of enclosure.
Art and scienceThe German artist Hans Holbein the Younger makes a large preparatory drawing, (cartoon) of King Henry VIII for the Whitehall Palace wall painting.
InternationalThe French Protestant reformer Jean Calvin publishes Institutio Christianae Religionis (Institute of the Christian Religion), the founding text of the Calvinist churches.
The Holy Roman Emperor Charles V invades Provence and besieges Marseille
Francis I of France conquers Savoy and Piedmont.
See this portrait
On display in Room 1 at the National Portrait Gallery
Recommended Exhibitions & displays
- 1517: Martin Luther and the English Reformation
Until 2 December
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- Henry VIII Remembered
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- Tints, texture and original intent, in four after-Holbein portraits
- Technique and effects of the after-Holbein copyists
- Holbein and his copyists
- The contexts for the production and demand for painted versions and copies in the sixteenth and early seventeenth century
- Perspective: Seeing where you stand
- Abolition Trail
- Investigating drawing - Pouncing
- The Tudors
- Holbein - Technique and Imitation