King Henry VIII

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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King Henry VIII

after Hans Holbein the Younger
oil on copper, probably 17th century, based on a work of 1536
11 in. x 7 7/8 in. (279 mm x 200 mm)
Purchased, 1863
Primary Collection
NPG 157

Sitterback to top

  • King Henry VIII (1491-1547), Reigned 1509-47. Sitter associated with 99 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 shows Henry VIII in his mid forties when he had already begun the process of dismantling monasteries and religious houses and had executed his second wife Anne Boleyn and the Bishop John Fisher. The portrait derives from a type establish by Hans Holbein the Younger, held in the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid. However this version painted on copper by a later artist may date from the late-sixteenth or early -seventeenth century.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Bolland, Charlotte, The Tudors Passion, Power and Politics, 2022, p. 34
  • 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. 2, 88 Read entry

    The German artist Hans Holbein the Younger undertook a wide variety of work at the English court but it is for his portraits that he is most widely celebrated. This portrait is a version on copper after Holbein's small-scale portrait of Henry VIII, which survives in the Museo Nacional Tyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, and may have been made as a diplomatic gift.

  • Clare Gittings, The National Portrait Gallery Book of Elizabeth I, 2006, p. 1
  • Edited by Lucy Peltz & Louise Stewart, Love Stories: Art, Passion & Tragedy, 2020, p. 17
  • Parris, Matthew, Heroes and Villains: Scarfe at the National Portrait Gallery, 2003 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 30 September 2003 to 4 April 2004), p. 83
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 296
  • Strong, Roy, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 1969, p. 153
  • Williamson, David, Kings and Queens, 2010, p. 83

Events of 1536back to top

Current affairs

Anne 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 science

The German artist Hans Holbein the Younger makes a large preparatory drawing, (cartoon) of King Henry VIII for the Whitehall Palace wall painting.


The 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.

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