King Henry I
- Tudor and Jacobean Portraits Database
King Henry I
by Unknown artist
oil on panel, 1597-1618
23 in. x 17 1/2 in. (584 mm x 444 mm) uneven
Key findings: The portrait set is the product of a number of workshops; within this set, this portrait is linked to the portraits of Stephen, John and Edward I.
The portrait set is the product of a number of workshops; within this set, this portrait is linked to the portraits of Stephen, John and Edward II.
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 portrait relates closely to the woodcut of Henry I in Thomas Talbot’s A Booke Containing the True Portraiture of the Kings of England (London, 1597) and may be derived directly from this source. The woodcut appears to be derived from medieval images of the king such as the statue on the fifteenth-century choir screen at York Minster. The inscription identifies the sitter as Henry I as the marks after the ‘I’ indicate the end of the inscription rather than another numeral (see detail 02); a similar notation is used after ‘EDVARDVS’ in the portrait of Edward I (NPG 4980(6)).
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 Stephen (NPG 4980(3)), John (NPG 4980(5)) and Edward I (NPG 4980(6)) indicate that all four portraits came from the same source.
Justification for dating
This painting, along with the portraits of Stephen, John and Edward I, appear to be derived directly from Talbot’s 1597 publication 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 the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century.
The paint is in good condition but there is extensive restoration in the background. The sleeve would originally have appeared purple, but the blue indigo and red lake have faded.
There appears to be a grey underlayer beneath the flesh paint, which is very similar to the other paintings in this related group: Stephen (NPG 4980(3)), John (NPG 4980(5)) and Edward I (NPG 4980(6)). The paint handling can also be compared to the related portraits, such as the fine detail painted wet-in-wet in the eyes and hair, but the painter of this portrait appears to be a more skilled and experienced artist. The costume is simply painted but with some fine blended detail. The style of the lettering in the inscription can be compared very closely with the other three portraits.
Drawing and transfer technique
Faint fine lines of underdrawing mark the outlines of the features, and are mostly followed in the paint layers. There are marks indicating areas of shadow in the cheeks and on the fur collar. The underdrawing in the costume is loosely drawn, with some searching for the position of the line; changes were made to the line of the shoulder on the left during painting.
Other known versions
A closely related version with a French inscription was lent to the 1966 Bromsgrove Autumn Arts Festival exhibition by Sir George Bellew (no. 5). A portrait of Henry I based on the engraving in the Baziliologia is in the collection of Dulwich Picture Gallery. It was produced in 1620 as part of a set.
Catalogue of Autumn Arts Festival, Stoke Prior Brushworks, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, 8-16 October 1966, no. 5
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
Compare Images (what's this? )
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 paint is raised in long vertical lines along the woodgrain in the background, although it appears secure; otherwise the paint is in good condition. There is extensive restoration in the background which is only adequately matched. The restoration on the on the face and costume is reasonably well matched. The varnish is semi-matt.
Number of boards: 3
Panel Orientation: Vertical
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: 3
Last date of tree ring: 1547
For analysis the boards were labelled A, B and C from the left (from the front). No sapwood was present along the edges of the panel, which means that a terminus post quem can be applied to the panel. Board C was not suitable for analysis because it contained fewer than 30 annual rings, but there were enough rings for analysis of boards A and B: the board A series was not dated and the last ring on board B was dated to 1547. Adding the minimum and maximum expected number of sapwood rings suggests that this board derives from a tree felled after 1555. Board B is narrower than the typical width for an eastern Baltic board which suggests that it is likely to have been trimmed. It is not therefore appropriate to apply the eastern Baltic 8 - 40 year LEHR-usage range to this panel. This panel has the earliest date in the group but as the dating is based on a single narrow board with no sapwood, there is no reason to suppose that it is not of the same date as the rest of the group.
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 wood grain and the panel joins can be seen in x-ray and it is evident that the joins have not been broken and reglued (see x-ray mosaic 01). There is an opaque line in the centre of the wood, where a line of the heartwood rings lies between the 'included' sapwood rings (see Dendrochronology). There are pentimenti where the lines of the shoulders have been raised a little. The soft blended technique of the flesh paint can be compared to the technique in other paintings in this group: Stephen (NPG 4980(3)), John (NPG 4980(5)) and Edward II (NPG 4980(6)). The mordant was applied in a loose brushy manner very similar to Stephen (NPG (4980(3)).
A technique used to observe the layers beneath the paint surface which can reveal underdrawing and changes to the initial design.
The outline of the face and the features have all been drawn in with fine and faint lines of underdrawing (see DIRR 01). On the whole the underdrawing of the face has been followed in the application of the paint layers. There are some marks indicating areas of shadow in the cheeks and also on the fur collar. The underdrawing in the costume is handled in a loose manner with some searching for the exact position of a line. The shoulder on the left has been raised at the painting stage.
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 with a light priming over it mixed with lead white and red lead.
Sample 1: Cross-section shows that the body of the red costume is painted with vermilion, possibly with some red lake, with a glaze layer over it made with red lake and black.
Sample 2: Two types of red lake are present. Dispersion indicated that the sleeves are painted with a dark purplish underlayer made with a translucent mixture of red lake (with a scarlet tone, probably madder) and indigo with the occasional white particle, and a glaze layer over this made with a more crimson red lake.
Sample 3: The background appears to be painted with a mixture of black and crimson red lake but it is difficult to establish if this is original. The sample also contains brown retouching pigments.
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
The painting has stylistic similarities to the portraits of Stephen (NPG 4980(3)), John (NPG 4980(5)) and Edward I (NPG 4980(6)) in the same set. However, although the technique and paint handling are very similar, this panel appears to have been painted by a more skilled and experienced painter.
The panel was prepared with a chalk ground and a white priming that contains lead white and red lead. In general, the fine underdrawing has been followed closely in the paint layers.
A grey underlayer appears to have been laid in as an initial layer in the face (see micro 03). The modelling of the flesh has been applied over this layer with a pale brown used for the shadows containing red lake, vermilion, black and white. The final details have been applied with care, as can be seen on the crow’s feet around the eyes and the fine texturing of paint on the upper eyelids. The lips have been painted with a concentration of bright vermilion on the top lip and at the edge of the lower lip; there are also large particles of red lake in the paint layer. The parting of the lips has been defined with a painted line containing red lake and black. The paint from the upper lip has been loosely blended with this to soften the line.
The iris has been applied with different shades of grey blended together, with the darkest grey forming the outline of the iris (see micro 01} and micro 02). The black pupil has been added over the iris paint. The whites of the eyes are painted in a pale grey with white blended wet-in-wet to depict areas of reflected light. At a later stage pure white highlights have been added to the iris and whites of the eyes. The corners of the eyes have been defined with red paint containing vermilion mixed wet-in-wet with a small amount of red lake. Small pink highlights have been applied over this layer. The upper eyelids and outer edge of the iris have been defined with a reddish brown paint applied with a stiff brush, creating horizontal lines in the brushstroke.
Eyelashes, eyebrows, beard and hair
Small daubs in the paint of the lower eyelid have been used to mark the eyelashes (see micro 02). The grey underlayer has been left showing through the flesh paint in the eyebrows and final strokes in different shades of brown mark out the individual hairs. A reserve has been left for the basic shape of the hair, and at an early stage in painting a thin brown wash has been applied as a blocking in layer. The hair has then been worked up with brushstrokes in brown and grey blended together wet-in-wet. The moustache has been approached in the same way. The hairs have been freely painted and blended wet-in-wet and in this respect it is similar in technique to NPG 4980(3), NPG 4980(5) and NPG 4980(6).
Collar and crown
The gilding has been applied over a dark orange mordant containing large particles of lead white mixed with bright orange, black and a little red lake (see micro 05). The details and shading have been painted over the gold in a translucent brown and also an orange paint. The pearls have been painted in different shades of grey blended together, creating the basic round shape with a single white highlight in the middle. On the collar the pearls have an outline of grey indicating shadow.
A layer of lead white with a few scattered particles of vermilion has been applied to mark out the shape of the collar. The brushstrokes have been applied in varying directions and lead soaps are visible across the surface. The shadows appear to have been applied over this layer rather than blended into it. The black patterning of the ermine is painted in black. The patterning over the white areas of the collar have been applied when the lower layer was dry: the brushstrokes can be seen to be skipping over the texture of the paint below. Where the pattern is applied to the areas of shadow, there is some wet-in-wet blending. Where the fur collar overlaps the red cloak, individual hairs have been painted on with a fine brush (see micro 06). The red cloak has been painted with a layer containing vermilion. Thin washes of black have been applied over this to mark the shadows and folds in the cloth, and there is a red lake glaze over this. This red glaze has been preserved at the bottom edge where the paint layer has been protected by the frame, which shows that it would have originally been a richer and more coherent layer. Paint sampling from the sleeve shows a lower layer of medium-rich paint containing red and dark pigments mixed with white. Different glazes have been employed over this for areas of highlight and shadow. These contain two types of red lake: one with a crimson hue and one that is possibly a madder lake (see micro 07). There is also evidence of faded indigo, which indicates that the sleeve would originally have had a purple appearance.
Background and inscription
As with the other comparable paintings, lines have been drawn to mark the position of the lettering. In this case there are two ruled lines at the bottom of the inscription, but only one has been followed (see micro 04). The style of the lettering is similar to that seen on NPG 4980(3), NPG 4980(5) and NPG 4980(6). It has been painted using a warm lead-tin yellow. The background is a dark brown colour and includes large particles of lead white mixed with earth pigments, black and a little vermilion.
Order of construction
- Mordant for gilding
- Base layer for hair
- Grey underlayer for flesh
- Flesh modelling
- Beard, eyebrows, hair
- Red tunic
- Ermine collar
Lead white, charcoal black, vermilion, red lead, red lake, madder lake, indigo, earth pigments, lead-tin yellow
Changes in composition/pentimenti
The position of the left shoulder has been changed at the painting stage and is higher then the original position seen in the underdrawing.
A method which helps to reveal past restoration and the extent of varnish layers.
There is thick layer of varnish across the surface which fluoresces green under ultra violet light, apart from a strip all along the bottom edge (see UV 01). The varnish does not appear to extend to the very edge but there is also a considerable amount of overpaint in this area. Areas of retouching are also visible in the background and face where the paint has prominent cracks in vertical lines. There are other smaller areas of retouching in the rest of the background and the costume. There is little retouching evident along the panel joins, which would indicate that the construction is sound and the joins have never been split.