King Henry VIII

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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King Henry VIII

after Hans Holbein the Younger
oil on panel, probably 17th century
19 in. x 13 1/2 in. (483 mm x 343 mm)
Purchased, 1871
Primary Collection
NPG 324

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.

Linked publicationsback to top

Events of 1600back to top

Current affairs

Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex is put on trial for failing to put an end to the rebellion in Ireland, attempting to negotiate a truce with the rebel leader Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, and deserting his post.
Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy, replaces Essex as Lord Deputy of Ireland.
The East India Company receives its Royal Charter by Queen Elizabeth I.
Birth of Prince Charles in Scotland (later King Charles I).

Art and science

William Shakespeare writes Hamlet.
The scientist William Gilbert writes De magnete ('on the magnet'), which pioneers research into the properties of the lodestone (magnetic iron ore) and introduces the terms 'electricity' and 'magnetic pole'.
The miniature painter Nicholas Hilliard works on his painting treatise The Art of Limning at this time.


Henry IV of France marries Marie de Medici from the powerful ruling family of Florence, Italy.
The Italian astronomer, philosopher and mathematician Giordano Bruno is sentenced to death by the Roman Inquisition and burned at the stake for heresy.
Following the death of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Ieyasu seizes control of Japan at the Battle of Sekigahara.

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06 July 2017, 07:52

Appendix One
Dating the NPG portrait of Henry VIII (NPG 324)

The NPG says this portrait was painted in 1536 to 1537. The following suggests a date of 1538 is more likely.


1531 James V of Scotland made knight of the Golden Fleece in view of his unfulfilled negotiations for a marriage to the sister of Charles V (see 1538).
1536 Anne Boleyn executed
1536 Marriage of Henry to Jane Seymour
1536 Italian War between France and Spain. To 1538.
1537 Death of Jane Seymour in childbirth
1537 Marriage negotiations between recently widowed James V of Scotland and Marie of Guise. Henry also offers marriage to prevent Franco-Scottish alliance.
1538 Marriage of James and Marie.
1538 End of mourning for Jane Seymour (to 2 February)
1538 Holbein in Brussels to paint Christina of Denmark, then aged 17 dowager Duchess of Milan, who was living with her aunt the Dowager Queen Mary of Hungary who was governor of the Low Countries on behalf of her brother Charles V. Christina refuses Henry’s offer of marriage and is married in 1541to the son of the Duke of Lorraine, cousin of Marie of Guise.
1539 Peace of Toledo, between Charles and Francis of France, ends the Italian War.
1539 Holbein paints portrait of Anne of Cleves and her younger sister, Amalia in view of possible marriage proposals.
1540 Henry marries Anne of Cleves whose father was an enemy of Charles of Spain.

The fact that the NPG portrait has the Order of the Golden Fleece added to the standard Holbein-based depiction of Henry VIII indicates that at the time it was painted the King wished to be seen as being favourable to Hapsbourg interests. The only time this was credible was during the negotiations to marry Christina of Denmark, that is in 1538. So it is likely the portrait was painted in 1538, not earlier, unless the NPG portrait was already in existence (there must have been many copies of Holbein’s portrait in existence at the time, given the number which have survived to this day), and the Order over-painted.


12 March 2017, 02:15

what does "after Hans Holbein" mean?