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King Henry IV

3 of 30 portraits of King Henry IV

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King Henry IV, by Unknown artist, 1597-1618 - NPG 4980(9) - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Tudor and Jacobean Portraits Database

King Henry IV

by Unknown artist
oil on panel, 1597-1618
22 7/8 in. x 17 1/2 in. (580 mm x 445 mm) uneven
NPG 4980(9)


The portrait set is the product of a number of workshops; within this set, this portrait is linked to the portraits of Edward III, Edward 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.

Historical context
This is a version of the standard painted portrait type of Henry IV, which was probably developed in the 1580s. The costume and composition derive from an engraving of Charles VI of France that was published in the Recueil des effigies des roys de France avec un brief sommaire des genealogies faits et gestes d'iceux (Lyon: Raullant de Neufchatel, 1567) and later, in Cronica Breve de i fatti illustri de Re di Francia (Venice, 1588) by Bernardo Giunti (d.1597). The face is probably derived from Henry IV’s tomb effigy in Canterbury Cathedral. By the late sixteenth century, the portrait type had become recognisable in England as Henry IV.

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)), Edward IV (NPG 4980(10)), Edward V (NPG 4980(11)) and Anne Boleyn (NPG 4980(15)) indicate that all five portraits came from the same source.

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 the period; dendrochronology indicates that the tree used for the panel is likely to have been felled after 1588.

The panel has suffered woodworm damage and areas of raised paint have been consolidated in the past. The costume now appears a muted grey/green because the dark blue indigo pigment has faded significantly, apart from a strip along the bottom edge of the panel that has been protected by frame rebate.

Painting technique
The grey streaky priming is similar to that seen in the portraits of Edward III (NPG 4980(7)), Edward IV (NPG 4980(10)), Edward V (NPG 4980(11)) and Anne Boleyn (NPG 4980(15) in the set. The brushstrokes in the flesh paint have a very similar texture to the flesh in the portrait of Edward V; the wet-in-wet brushstrokes used for the ear and the style of the hands are also similar. The eyebrows are painted in the same unusual way as in the other related portraits. 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 strong shape. 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
Black underdrawing marks the position of the facial features. The thick lines were confidently applied to mark out definite shapes, especially the eyebrows, and probably reinforce a transferred pattern. The underdrawing in the costume and hand is freer and looser.

Other known versions
There are many other versions of this portrait, most of which were made for sets of English kings and queens.

There are other versions in the following collections:
- National Portrait Gallery (NPG 310)
- Syon House (Duke of Northumberland, formerly at Albury) – part of a set
- Hardwick Hall, National Trust, NT 1129169
- Royal Collection, RCIN402737
- Longleat (Marquess of Bath) – part of a set
- Euston Hall (Duke of Grafton; recorded in 1955)
- The Deanery, Ripon (two versions) – one part of a set
- Dulwich Picture Gallery (based on the engraving in the Baziliologia, which uses the same type) – part of a set - DPG528
- Private collection (formerly at Salisbury Hall)
- Anglesey Abbey, National Trust, NT 515577 (possibly eighteenth century)

Versions have also appeared in the salesrooms at:
- Christie's, London - 21 October 1949 (lot 100) (sold anonymously, previously: collection of Thomas Townend 1881; collection of C. Butler 1911)
- Sotheby’s, London – 21 July 1965 (lot 45)
- Sotheby's, London - 24 November 1971 (lot 11) (previously in the collection of Lord Chandos, Trafalgar House)
- Christie's, London - 5 March 1982 (lot 160/2)
- Sotheby’s, London – 15 February 1989 (lot 251) (probably also Sotheby’s – 14 May 1986 (lot 153))
- Christie’s, London – 8 March 2001 (lot 213) (also at Sotheby’s – 28 May 1998 (lot 359))
- Christie’s, London – 25-26 September 2000 (lot 162) (formerly at Clifton Hampden Manor, Oxfordshire)

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 Painting, 1969, I, pp. 141-43


Micro 01. Detail of the eye on the left (7.1…
Micro 02. Detail of the eye on the right (7.1…
Micro 03. Detail of lips (7.1 x mag).
Micro 04. Detail of inscription (7.1 x mag).
Micro 05. Detail of ear (7.1 x mag).
Micro 06. Detail of fingernail (7.1 x mag).
Micro 07. Detail of faded indigo preserved be…
UV 01. Front of the panel in ultra violet lig…
Reverse 01. Back of the panel in raking light…

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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.

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The panel has suffered woodworm damage but appears to be stable. Unstable raised paint has been consolidated in several small areas in the past: in the lower right sleeve, in the grey/green costume, and in the upper left background, where there has evidently been a history of flaking. On the paint surface the joins are a little open. There is lumpy restoration on the right-hand side of the face, on the right of the headdress and in the lower-right sleeve. The left background appears a little spotty. The restoration is reasonably well matched. The varnish is semi-glossy.


Support type: Eastern Baltic oak

Number of boards: 3

Panel Orientation: Vertical

Panel condition observations

There is woodworm damage in the band of pale wood in the central board, next to the right-hand join (seen from the back). The edge next to the other join has also suffered woodworm damage. There are worm holes and damage in the weaker areas. Worm damage is also evident beneath the paint surface, where there is restored paint loss. The left join has been rejoined but misaligned on the reverse. Glue residues can be seen on the back where the boards have been rejoined. There are nail holes at the top in the centre, above the hat, which are most likely connected to an old hanging method.

Dendrochronology (what's this? )


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: 1580


For analysis the boards were labelled A, B and C from the left (from the front). No sapwood was present, which means that a terminus post quem can be applied to the panel. The combined ring sequences match strongly, indicating that the boards all derive from the same tree. The last measured tree ring, on board C, dates to 1580. Adding the minimum and maximum expected number of sapwood rings suggests that the tree used for all three boards was felled after 1588. Board B (245 mm) is slightly below the normal width for an eastern Baltic board and therefore may have been trimmed significantly. Boards A and C are probably adjacent strips from a single board.

X-radiography (what's this? )


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 x-rays are a little pale. The wood grain and panel joins can be seen, along with woodworm holes and the nail holes for old hanging methods (see x-ray mosaic 01). The painting method for the face can be compared with Edward III (NPG 4980(7)) Edward IV (NPG 4980(10)), Edward V (NPG 4980(11)) and Anne Boleyn (NPG 4980(15)), where the eyebrows were painted first and then the flesh was painted up to the edges of the eyebrows. The brushwork of the ear can be compared to the ear of Edward V.

Infrared reflectography (what's this? )

Infra-Red Reflectographyclose

A technique used to observe the layers beneath the paint surface which can reveal underdrawing and changes to the initial design.

Black underdrawing is visible marking the features of the face using infrared reflectography (see DIRR 01). These lines are thick and have been confidently applied marking out definite shapes, especially the eyebrows, and are likely to reinforce a transferred pattern. In contrast, the underdrawing in the costume and hand has been applied in a freer and looser manner. Rather than reinforcing a transferred pattern the underdrawing in the costume appears to be the planning for the final position of these elements of the painting.

Paint sampling (what's this? )

Paint Samplingclose

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 in one sample there appears to be a white priming applied over it.

Red sleeve on the right
Sample 1: Cross-section shows one layer of bright red containing vermilion, carbon black and some red lake.

Blue sleeve on the right
Sample 2: Cross-section shows a chalk ground with what appears to be a white priming over it. The paint over the priming contains indigo and lead white. There is a very thin layer over this that contains black and red particles.

Sample 3: Dispersion from the left edge shows fine ground soft black with what appears to be a yellow lake on a gypsum (possibly) base. The yellow lake may have been used as a glaze over the black.

Surface examination (what's this? )

Surface Examinationclose

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 preparation layers and paint handling are similar to the group of panels in this set connected through dendrochronology: Edward IV (NPG 4980(10)), Edward V (NPG 4980(11)) and Anne Boleyn (NPG 4980(15)).

Preparation layers
The panel was prepared with a chalk ground and a grey streaky priming. The thick underdrawing in the face was confidently applied in a carbon medium.

The brushstrokes used for the flesh have a very pronounced texture that is similar to that seen on Edward V (NPG 4980(11)) and follow the contours of the face. A pale brown paint mixture has been used to mark out the contours of the face and the modelling of the flesh has been applied over this. The flesh paint contains vermilion, red lake, white and black in varying proportions. The flesh paint has been applied up and around the features but in this case the paint appears to have been applied much faster, resulting in softer blending around the features. The wet-in-wet brushstroke used to create the shape of the ear is very similar to that seen on Edward V (NPG 4980(11)) (see micro 05). The line of the nose has also been created by dragging a brushstroke through the wet flesh paint. The top lip has been quickly painted with a mix of vermilion and white in a very textured brushstroke. The lower lip is more finely blended, with white used for highlights. A line of red lake has been brushed through the wet paint to create the parting of the lips (see micro 03). The hand is stylistically very similar to those in Edward V (NPG 4980(11)). It has been rapidly painted with thick paint and textured brushwork and white has been mixed into the flesh paint for highlights on the fingers and nails (see micro 06). A reddish brown paint has been used to emphasise the outline of the hand.

The streaky grey priming layer and heavy underdrawing is clearly visible around the eyes (see micro 01 and micro 02). A thin brown paint layer has been applied to mark the position of the iris and upper eyelid. Over this the pupil has been painted in black mixed with earth pigments. A daub of paint containing vermilion mixed with red lake has been used for the corner of the eye. A darker red/brown has been used to emphasise the iris and upper eyelid, with a small amount of grey blended in for highlights on the iris. The whites of the eyes have been painted in and around the iris, with some wet-in-wet blending visible in with the darker brown iris paint.

Eyebrows and beard
The eyebrows have been painted in the same unusual manner as those seen on Edward IV (NPG 49080(10)), 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 this layer to create the eyebrow/ However, the handling of the technique in this instance is much subtler, resulting in a softer shape around the eyebrow. 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. Reserves have been left in the flesh paint for the moustache and beard, and the streaky priming is clearly visible. A translucent brown paint has been used to block in the shape of the moustache and beard, and individual strands of hair have been added over this at a later stage.

Costume and hat
The tunic, which now appears a muted grey/green, was originally a dark blue. The indigo pigment used has significantly faded, apart from a strip along the bottom edge of the panel that has been protected by the frame rebate (see micro 07). The brushstrokes used for the tunic have been rapidly applied in a very brushy manner. The fur lining on the sleeves and cuff has been blocked in with a mix of grey and white paint. Lead white has been applied at a later stage to create the illusion of strands of fur, and the ermine pattern has been added as the final detail. The main pigment used for the red sleeves is vermilion, mixed with black for the shadows and blended wet-in-wet to create the folds of the fabric. Remnants of a red lake glaze can be seen along the lower edge, which was likely to have formed a more coherent layer over the sleeves when it was originally painted. The red hat appears to have a darker paint layer lying beneath it and a reserve has been left for the jewel on the hat. The pearls are painted over the costume in grey with a highlight in lead white. The shadows of the pearls have been painted in red lake.

Mordant and gilding
The mordant is a warm pale brown and contains very large particles of lead white mixed with orange and black. The details on top of the gilding are painted in a pale orange paint with a darker translucent brown over the top. The shape of the staff is very similar to that seen on Edward V (NPG 4980(11)) but the application of the details is different and handled with much broader, loose brushstrokes.

Background and inscription
The background has been applied at a late stage in the painting process; for example, brushstrokes can be seen to have been drawn up and around the jewel on the hat, and there is also some blending between the background paint and the red paint of the hat. The background contains a mixture of lead white, earth pigments and black. It is very worn and abraded in areas. The inscription is stylistically similar to NPG 4980(10), NPG 4980(11) and NPG 4980(15). It has been painted in a warm shade of lead-tin yellow with a few particles of red and orange also visible (see micro 04).

Order of construction
- Ground
- Priming
- Underdrawing
- Mordant and gilding
- Pale brown marking out features and shadows
- Eyes and lips
- Flesh modelling
- Translucent brown for moustache and beard
- Costume
- Detailing on hair and fur
- Jewels
- Background
- Inscription

Lead white, carbon black, red lake, vermilion, indigo, lead-tin yellow, earth pigments, yellow lake

Ultra violet examination (what's this? )

Ultra Violetclose

A method which helps to reveal past restoration and the extent of varnish layers.

The varnish layer appears opaque in ultra violet light and some parts of the varnish are broken up with a slightly spotty appearance (see UV 01). The most recent restoration down the joins, and scattered in the face, costume and background, appears dark in ultra violet light. Areas of older restoration down the joins and on the shoulder on the right appear less dark.


Frame type: Not original.

Frame date: Late 20th century.


Carved and ebonised frame with Egg and Dart motifs.