2 of 26 portraits of Anne Boleyn
- Tudor and Jacobean Portraits Database
by Unknown artist
oil on panel, 1597-1618
22 1/4 in. x 17 3/8 in. (564 mm x 441 mm) uneven
The portrait set is the product of a number of workshops; within this set, this portrait is linked to the portraits of Edward III, Henry IV, Edward IV and Edward V.
This portrait is part of a set of sixteen portraits of English kings and queens. The set was previously at Hornby Castle near Bedale, the North Yorkshire seat of the Duke of Leeds, where it was recorded hanging in a corridor gallery in catalogues of 1898 and 1902. Its previous history is unknown but it was possibly acquired for Hornby Castle by the Darcy family. The set was on loan to the Gallery from 1930, following the death of the 10th Duke of Leeds in 1927, and was purchased in 1974 from the 10th Duke of Leeds Will Trust.
This is a version of the standard painted portrait type of Anne Boleyn (see NPG 668) although it has evidently been produced using a pattern that it is at some remove from the original design.
Notes on attribution
This portrait is the product of an English workshop. The sixteen portraits in the set appear to have been sourced from several different workshops. Similarities between this painting and the portraits of Edward III (NPG 4980(7), Henry IV (NPG 4980(9)), Edward IV (NPG 4980(10)) and Edward V (NPG 4980(11)) indicate that all five portraits came from the same source. In addition, the panels used for the portraits of Edward IV, Edward V and Anne Boleyn all contain wood from a common tree.
Justification for dating
Some of the portraits in the set appear to be directly based on woodcuts from a series published in London in 1597 (Thomas Talbot, A Booke Containing the True Portraiture of the Kings of England) so it is likely that the set was produced after this date. Unlike the majority of sets of English kings and queens made in 1618 and later, none of the portraits are based on engravings from Henry Holland’s Baziliologia, which was published in that year. It is likely, therefore, that this set was produced before the Baziliologia was published. The materials and methods used to produce this portrait are entirely consistent with paintings from the period; dendrochronological analysis indicates that the wood used for the panel is likely to have been felled between 1589 and 1604.
The paint surface has a history of blistering and flaking, and the surface of the flesh paint has a thick, heavily restored appearance.
The grey streaky priming is similar to that seen in the portraits of Edward III (NPG 4980(7)), Henry IV (NPG 4980 (9)), Edward IV (NPG 4980(10)) and Edward V (NPG 4980(11)) in the set. The flesh paint in this related group of portraits is built up in the same manner. The eyebrows have been painted in a particularly unusual way; a light brown layer was painted in to mark the position of the eyebrows, and the flesh paint was then painted up and around the reserve, giving the eyebrows a very pronounced and distinctive shape. The lips are painted in a very similar manner to the portraits of Edward IV and Edward V, but the flesh paint has a smoother appearance, which is probably due to the extensive restoration in this portrait. The flesh has a texture created by dragging a fine comb or similar tool through wet paint, which is not found in the other two portraits. The jewels show a degree of skill which is not found in the rest of the painting. As with the other portraits of the Tudor monarchs in the set, there is no gilding on the portrait and lead-tin yellow is used to depict gold elements. The style of the lettering in the inscription is the same as the inscriptions on the other four portraits in this group.
Drawing and transfer technique
The black underdrawing is very simple and bold and is likely to reinforce a transferred pattern. The outline of the eyebrows is clearly defined in a similar manner to the portrait of Edward V.
Other known versions
Versions of the standard painted portrait of Anne Boleyn can be found in the following collections:
- National Portrait Gallery (NPG 668)
- Dulwich Picture Gallery - part of a set, DPG534
- Hever Castle
- Royal Collection - part of a set, RCIN404742
- The Deanery, Ripon – two versions, one of which is part of a set
Cooper, Tarnya, ‘The Enchantment of the Familiar Face: Portraits as Domestic Objects in Elizabethan and Jacobean England’ in Hamling, Tara and Richardson, Catherine (eds.), Everyday Objects: Medieval and Early Modern Material Culture and its Meanings, 2010, pp. 157-177
Daunt, Catherine, ‘Portrait Sets in Tudor and Jacobean England’ unpublished PhD thesis, University of Sussex, 2015
Daunt, Catherine, Heroes and Worthies: Emerging Antiquarianism and the Taste for Portrait Sets in England', in T. Cooper, A. Burnstock, M. Howard and E. Town, eds, Painting in Britain 1500-1630: Production, Influences and Patronage, 2015, pp. 362-75
Gibson, Robin, ‘The National Portrait Gallery’s Set of Kings and Queens at Montacute House’ in The National Trust Yearbook, 1975, pp. 81-87
Gibson, Robin, ‘A Jacobean Gallery of the Kings and Queens of England’, Folio, Spring 1995 (The Folio Society, London), pp. 9-16
Strong, Roy, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 1969, I. pp. 5-6
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Compare high-resolution images against the painting - mainly x-ray and infra-red photography images, but sometimes UV or raking light images - side by side with the ability to zoom in on details.
The panel and the balsa wood backing are in a stable condition. The paint surface has a history of blistering and flaking. The most insecure areas have been repeatedly treated in the past but still have a tendency to become unstable. There is considerable filling and restoration in the chest area, where the surface is uneven and lumpy, and also in the face. The surface of the flesh paint has a thick heavily restored appearance. The varnish is brittle and easily scratched; it is semi-matt and has a sprayed appearance.
Number of boards: 2
Panel Orientation: Vertical
Panel condition observations
The panel has been extensively repaired. The left board has an old repaired split and the reverse of the panel is entirely covered with balsa wood, cut in strips with indented lines cut into the surface. The balsa wood is stained with wood stain. There is a great deal of filler covering the board edges. The boards do not appear to have been thinned during this repair. X-ray shows some woodworm holes in the sapwood next to the join in the board on the left and nail or tack holes at the edges of the panel at the top and left sides, probably related to a method for fixing the panel in a support, such as within panelling (see X-ray). A non-National Portrait Gallery paper label is attached to the back, with National Portrait Gallery number and subject.
An examination of tree rings, which can help to provide the earliest possible felling dates for the wood used for the panel. The technique can also indicate the geographical origin of the wood.
Number of boards: 2
Last date of tree ring: 1585
For analysis the boards were labelled A and B from the left (from the front). Sapwood is present along the lower edges of both boards, therefore a felling date range can be applied to the panel. The sequence of rings on board A matches strongly with board A from Edward IV (NPG4980(10)), and the sequence from board B matches strongly with board B from Edward IV and both boards from Edward VI (NPG4980(11)). The last tree ring on board A dated to 1585, and on board B it is dated to 1581, at the onset of sapwood. The two linked boards on Edward IV also contain sapwood, but those on Edward V do not. Adding the minimum and maximum expected number of sapwood rings to all six of these boards and combining the ranges suggests that the three panels derive from two trees felled between 1589 and 1604. It is unlikely that Board A has been significantly trimmed as it is unusually wide (341mm) for an eastern Baltic board.
A technique used to identify changes in composition beneath the surface of the paint layers and to understand the physical structure of a panel or canvas.
The joins in the balsa wood backing can be seen in x-ray and the adhesive appears as scattered shapes with a fine craquelure pattern (see x-ray mosaic 01). The panel joins are also evident. The area of sapwood at the edge of the panel join can be seen as darker than the rest of the panel grain and there are old woodworm holes in this part. The considerable damage, with paint loss in the chest, is evident in x-ray. There is a dense area on the face that is difficult to interpret because the back of the panel is obscured by the backing and, therefore, it is not possible to determine whether this area is part of the paint surface or is on the back of the panel. The painting method for the face can be compared with the method in other portraits in the group: NPG 4980(7), NPG 4980(9), NPG 4980(10), NPG 4980(11)
A technique used to observe the layers beneath the paint surface which can reveal underdrawing and changes to the initial design.
The underdrawing marking out the features and hair is thick, black and heavily applied (see DIRR 01). It marks out the features with very definite shapes and can be seen to be reinforcing lighter lines beneath. The position of the string of pearls has been marked with a single drawn line with some searching of line at the top left side. The rough position of the dress neckline has also been quickly marked in, although not closely followed in the upper paint layers.
Investigation into microscopic pigment samples or samples of other media in order to help with dating, to reveal the order of the paint layers and help to understand the painting techniques used.
Paint samples were taken for analysis in April 2011.
The panel is prepared with a chalk ground and a thin warm grey priming.
Sample 1: Dispersion shows a mixture of lead white and chalk which was most likely added for extra translucency.
Brown fur sleeve
Sample 2: Cross-section shows the chalk ground with particles of soot, and a thin priming containing lead white, carbon black and what appears to be either an orangey red ochre or red lead. Above the priming there is possibly a yellow lake, followed by layers of dirt and degraded varnish.
Sample 3: Cross-sections shows the chalk ground and warm grey priming, as above. The paint layer over the priming contains a mixture of earth pigments and carbon black with distinctively large white particles that are very similar to those found in Edward IIII (NPG 4980(10)) and Edward V (NPG 4980(11)).
An examination of the construction of paint layers, glazes and condition often using a microscope. This method provides important evidence concerning an artist’s technique and paint handling and can reveal a specific artist’s characteristic painting style.
Painting style and method
Dendrochronology has linked this painting with the portraits of Edward IV (NPG 4980(10)) and Edward V (NPG 4980(11)) from this set, and the handling of the paint in some areas has been found to be similar. The painting has a similar streaky grey priming layer, although it is not as thick as that seen on Edward IV (NPG 4980(10)). The painting has suffered from continued blistering and paint loss and has extensive retouching in the flesh (see raking 01).
The panel was prepared with a chalk ground, containing particles of soot, and a grey streaky priming, which contains lead white, black and a little red lead. The thick black underdrawing is visible beneath the paint layers in certain areas.
The paint layer has a smoother appearance than the portraits of Edward IV (NPG 4980(10)) and Edward V (NPG 4980(11)), with textured brushstrokes only visible in some areas. This appears to be due to the extensive retouching on this painting. A fine comb-like tool was dragged through the wet paint in the flesh on the décolletage and also in a small area of the hair line to create texture (see micro 03), which was not seen on the other two works. A light brown paint was used to emphasise the features and shadows of the face. The modelling of the flesh has been carried out using a paint mixture containing very finely ground vermilion, mixed with white and a little black. The eyes, eyebrows and lips have been painted in before the flesh paint has been applied. A pinker paint mix has been used around the eyes, and the paler tone used for the rest of the face has not been blended into this paint but painted around it. The lips are handled in a similar way to Edward IV (NPG 4980(10)) and Edward V (NPG 4980(11)) using a paint mixture containing red lake, white and black. On the décolletage the pearl necklace appears to have been painted before the modelling of the flesh, which again has been painted up around the pearls, with brushstrokes following the contours of the necklace.
The thick underdrawing is clearly visible through the paint around the eyes. A pale brown paint has been used as an underlayer for the eye socket, upper lid and iris, and is the same paint used for the eyebrows and shadows of the flesh. A translucent dark brown layer containing large black pigment particles has been used to define the iris and the pupil and a lead white highlight have been painted on top of the iris. The whites of the eyes have been painted around the iris. The corners of the eyes have been marked with a mixture of vermilion and red lake. The upper eyelid has been emphasised with a line of dark reddish brown (see micro 01 and micro 02).
Eyebrows and hair
The eyebrows have been painted in the same distinctive way as seen in NPG 4980(10) and NPG 4980(11). A light brown layer has been painted in to mark the position of the eyebrows. The flesh paint has then been painted up and around the reserve giving the eyebrows a very pronounced, strong shape. Individual strands of hair have then been painted on the brow in a dark red/brown paint similar to that seen on the upper eyelid. A translucent warm brown layer has been used as a base coat for the hair, which has been quickly applied in broad brushstrokes.
Costume and headdress
The white border of the neckline appears to have been painted before the black of the dress. The dress has a grey underlayer that may be the same grey as seen in the background. Over this a dark black layer containing earth pigments has been applied. The fur sleeves of the dress have been painted in the same translucent warm brown as the hair. A few small strokes of white have been added to create the illusion of fur; in some instances these are covered by the warm brown layer. The veil of the headdress contains a mixture of lead white and chalk. The gold chain necklace and gold setting for the jewel on the neckline have been painted in bright orange with lead-tin yellow highlights. The jewels have been painted directly onto the black of the dress, which is also used for the base colour of the diamonds, with small lead white highlights on top. The pearls are painted with two different shades of thin grey paint; the brushstrokes have been used to create the shape of the pearl with lead white highlights on top (see micro 07). The jewels show a degree of skill and detail that is not seen in the other parts of this painting. Similar handling of the details and pearls can be seen on the headdress. The streaky priming can clearly be seen on the decorative border of the headdress (see micro 06).
Background and inscription
The background has been painted in two layers. In some areas a dark grey layer is visible, which contains large particles of lead white and black pigment with a small amount of vermilion and earth pigments. This layer was applied at an early stage in the painting process. A second layer has been applied over this in a wholesale manner. This layer is a warm translucent brown, which does not completely obscure the lower layer (see micro 05) The inscription is painted in a warm shade of lead-tin yellow and is stylistically similar to NPG 4980(10) and NPG 4980(11). Many of the letters have been reinforced with later overpaint (see micro 04).
Order of construction
- Brushy underlayer for the hair and headdress
- Eyes and lips
- Pale brown marking out the features and shadows on the face
- Flesh modelling
- Lower layer of the background
- Jewels and decorative border on the headdress and neckline
- Upper layer of the background
Lead white, carbon black, red lake, vermilion, lead-tin yellow, red lead or red ochre, earth pigments, yellow lake (possibly)
A method which helps to reveal past restoration and the extent of varnish layers.
There is a thick varnish over the surface which appears opaque in ultra violet light (see UV 01). This obscures most of the considerable restoration beneath the varnish, apart from in the flesh and parts of the costume where some of the old restoration can be seen as dark areas.