King Edward IV
2 of 37 portraits of King Edward IV
- Tudor and Jacobean Portraits Database
King Edward IV
by Unknown artist
oil on panel, 1597-1618
22 1/2 in. x 17 5/8 in. (572 mm x 448 mm)
The portrait set is the product of a number of workshops; within the set, this portrait is closely linked to the portraits of Edward III, Henry IV, Edward V and Anne Boleyn.
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 Edward IV, the earliest known version of which is in the Royal Collection (dated to 1524-56). This painting differs from the Royal Collection picture in some respects, particularly in the costume, and is closely comparable to other derivative versions that were made for sets from the 1580s onwards.
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 V (NPG 4980(11)) and Anne Boleyn (NPG 4980(15)) 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 after 1618, 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 techniques used to produce this portrait are entirely consistent with paintings from this period; dendrochronological analysis indicates that the tree used for the panel is likely to have been felled between 1589 and 1604.
The ground and paint layers are unstable and the painting has a history of restoration.
The grey streaky priming is similar to that seen in the portraits of Edward III (NPG 4980(7)), Henry IV (NPG 4980 (9)), Edward V (NPG 4980(11)) and Anne Boleyn (NPG 4980(15)) 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. There is some wet-in-wet blending in the finer details of the flesh, hair and costume, and the green glaze on the painted ledge has a textured appearance achieved by blotting away some of the glaze while it was still wet. The red glaze on the costume of Edward V was treated in the same way. 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
Infrared reflectography and surface examination reveal that the features and outline of the face are marked with simple, confident lines of black underdrawing.
Other known versions
Other closely related versions of this portrait survive in the following collections:
- Syon House (Duke of Northumberland, previously at Albury) – part of a set
- Longleat (Marquess of Bath) – part of a set
- The Deanery, Ripon – part of a set
- Royal Collection, RCIN403435
- Burlington House, Society of Antiquaries of London, LDSAL 320; Scharf XVIII
- Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge, 24
- Burlington House, Society of Antiquaries of London, LDSAL 297; Scharf XVII
- Anglesey Abbey, National Trust, NT 515571
- Petworth House, National Trust, NT 485082
- Thomas Plume’s Library, X.2.9
Anzelewsky, Fedja, ‘An Unidentified Portrait of King Edward IV’, The Burlington Magazine, 109, 1967, pp. 702-03+705
Catalogue of Autumn Arts Festival, Stoke Prior Brushworks, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, 8-16 October 1966, no. 21
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. 86-87
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The panel is in a stable condition. The ground and paint layers are not stable and have been treated for blistering repeatedly in recent years. The paint is a little raised over the cracks and the panel join, and in some parts of the lower edge; the lower section of the painting is probably the most problematic. The surface is uneven due to both fillings that are too high and to raised paint and cracks. There is a history of restoration. This restoration seems well matched and the varnish is even and semi-glossy.
Number of boards: 2
Panel Orientation: Vertical
Panel condition observations
The panel join has been repaired. In the lower-right corner there is a wood loss that has been repaired with a piece of inset wood and secured from the reverse with canvas and adhesive. There is a small hole which has been filled with wax approximately 6.5 cm from the upper edge, in the centre of the panel; this hole is probably a nail hole related to an old hanging method. There are two nails at the top edge that may be related to past hanging methods. There is a thin layer of wax over the entire reverse. A National Portrait Gallery paper label is attached to the reverse.
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: 1586
For analysis the boards were labelled A and B from the left (from the front). Sapwood is present along the lower edges of the both boards, which means that a felling date range can be applied to the panel. The sequence of rings obtained from a combination of the upper edges of board A and the lower edge of board B were found to match but do not derive from the same tree. Board A matches strongly with board A of Anne Boleyn (NPG 4080 (15)), while board B matches strongly with both boards from Edward V (NPG 4980(11)) and board B from Anne Boleyn (NPG 4980(15)). The last tree rings on both boards date from 1586, with 6 sapwood rings on board A and 5 on board B. The two linked boards on Anne Boleyn also contain sapwood but the boards on Edward V do not. Adding the minimum and maximum expected number of sapwood rings to all six boards and combining the ranges suggests that the three panels derive from two trees felled between 1589 and 1604. Board A is a typical width for eastern Baltic oak and therefore there is little chance that it has been trimmed.
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 large repaired damage at the lower-left corner is very obvious in x-ray (see x-ray mosaic 01). There are repaired holes, which are probably nail holes for a past hanging method (see Support). The broad brushwork of the priming layer can be seen clearly, as can the inscription. The painting method for the face, which is characteristic of a group of portraits that includes Edward V (NPG 4980(11)) and Anne Boleyn (NPG 4980(15)) is very clear; the eyebrows were painted first and the flesh paint was then painted up to the edges of the eyebrows.
A technique used to observe the layers beneath the paint surface which can reveal underdrawing and changes to the initial design.
Black underdrawing marking out the features and outline of the face with confident applied lines and definite shapes can be seen using infrared reflectography (see DIRR01). The streaky priming is also very clear.
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 was prepared with a chalk ground and a pale grey priming was applied over it.
Green ledge across lower edge of painting
Sample 1: Cross-section shows a chalk ground with a relatively thick pale grey priming over it, which contains lead white and carbon black. Above the priming there is a thick layer of pure copper glaze. Above the glaze there is a layer composed of reds and black which may be restoration.
Sample 2: Cross-section shows the pale grey priming; no ground is present in the sample. The priming contains the occasional particle of red ochre. Lead soap inclusions appear to be migrating into the upper paint layer. Over the priming there is a thick layer of blackish brown paint made with a mixture of carbon black, lead white and small particles of red ochre.
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 V (NPG 4980(11)) and Anne Boleyn (NPG 4980(15)) from the same set, and the handling of the paint in some areas has been found to be similar.
The panel was prepared with a chalk ground and a relatively thick grey streaky priming, which contains lead white and carbon black. The underdrawing was carried out in a carbon medium and can be seen beneath some passages of the paint surface.
A light brown paint has been used to mark out the features and shadows of the face. Over this a modelling layer has been applied using very textured brushstrokes with a paint mix containing finely ground vermilion, black and white pigments. The lips have been painted in vermilion and red lake mixed with black and white, with more white blended in to create highlights. The upper and lower lips have been painted separately, leaving the thick underdrawing visible between the lips, this has then been painted over with a line of red lake glaze. At the corners of the mouth and eyes a brush, or similar tool, has been dragged through the wet paint. This appears to be deliberate and may be a technique to soften the contours (see micro 03).
The eye on the right has suffered from abrasion and loss and as a result has areas of retouching (see micro 02). Beneath the eyes the streaky grey priming and the underdrawing are clearly visible (see micro 01). The iris contains earth pigments mixed with black, over which the black pupil has been loosely painted. The whites of the eyes have been painted up and around the iris in a pale grey paint mixture which has also been used for the highlight on the pupil and iris. After the grey highlight had dried, a second highlight of lead white has been applied on top. The corner of the eye is painted with a vermilion and red lake paint mix with a pink highlight on top. The upper eyelid has been defined with a dark red/brown line of paint through which a lighter brown paint has been dragged to create eyelashes.
Eyebrows and hair
The eyebrows have been painted in an unusual way that is also seen in Edward V (NPG 4980(11)) and Anne Boleyn (NPG 4980(15)). 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 eyebrow 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 thin brown wash has been brushed on as an underlayer for the hair. After the background was applied, individual strands of hair have been painted over the wash, extending into the background. These final touches must have been added when the background paint was still wet as some wet-in-wet blending can be seen.
Costume and hat
The gilded elements of the costume have been applied over a light brown mordant containing lead white, black and orange pigment particles (see micro 05). A translucent orange/brown paint has been used to mark out the pattern on the coat as well as folds in the cloth. The pattern has then been emphasised with a darker black paint, which also follows the outlines of the costume, and was applied in the final stages of painting. The mordant and gilding on the tunic and hat were carried out first, before the black layer was painted in. A reserve was left for the hat; this was painted in while the background paint was still wet, as there is some blending of the two layers around the edges. The jewels and details were added as a final layer. Two of the jewels on the tunic appear to have been painted with a blue pigment mixed with white; however, there is little remaining of the thin paint layer. The pearls have been painted using two different shades of grey paint, thinly applied with directional strokes to create a circle. Lead white highlights have then been applied.
In the foreground there is a ledge or table with a green covering. Paint sample analysis shows that a thick layer of pure copper green glaze was applied directly over the priming layer (see Paint sampling). There are also a few particles of red lake pigment. The green glaze has a mottled appearance which seems to have been created by blotting away the glaze, when still wet, with a cloth or other soft material (see micro 07). The red glaze on the costume in Edward V (NPG 4980 (11)) has been treated in the same way.
Background and inscription
The background is very dark and the paint mixture contains carbon black, lead white and small particles of red ochre. The inscription has been painted in a warm lead-tin yellow. The lettering is very distinctive and the same 'R' can be seen on Edward V (NPG 4980(11)) and Anne Boleyn (NPG 4980(15)) (see micro 04).
Order of construction
- Mordant and gilding
- Brushy underlayer for hair
- Black collar, hat and tunic
- Flesh modelling
- Detailing on hair
- Jewels and details on gilding
- Green foreground
Lead white, charcoal black, red lake, vermilion, copper green glaze, lead-tin yellow, red ochre, earth pigments, gold leaf
A method which helps to reveal past restoration and the extent of varnish layers.
Areas of restoration, which appear black in ultra violet light, can be seen down the panel join, the repaired split and damage at the lower left, and scattered over the face (see UV01). There is restoration also in the green cloth at the lower edge. There is a slightly opaque fluorescence on the surface, due to thin residues of old varnish that remain after careful cleaning.