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King Henry VII

4 of 66 portraits of King Henry VII

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Tudor and Jacobean Portraits Database

King Henry VII

after Unknown artist
oil on panel, 1597-1618
22 1/2 in. x 17 1/2 in. (572 mm x 445 mm) uneven
NPG 4980(13)


The portrait set is the product of a number of workshops; within this set, this portrait is linked to the portraits of Henry VIII and Mary I.

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 a standard painted portrait type of Henry VII that was often used for sets of English kings and queens from around 1580 onwards. It ultimately derives from early sixteenth-century portraits of the king, but was probably also influenced by Hans Holbein's posthumous depiction of Henry VII in the Whitehall Mural.

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. It is possible that this portrait came from the same source as the paintings of Henry VIII and Mary I.

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 techniques used to produce this portrait are entirely consistent with paintings from the period; dendrochronological analysis indicates that the tree used for the panel is likely to have been felled after 1582.

Painting technique
The flesh paint is finely blended, with little evidence of brushstrokes. Details in the costume are applied in a methodical manner. As with the other Tudor monarchs in this set, there is no gilding and lead-tin yellow has been used to depict the gold elements.

Drawing and transfer technique
The underdrawing in the face shows clear evidence of transfer from a pattern, with little elaboration. The lines have been confidently applied and are closely followed in the paint layers above. The underdrawing in the costume appears less confident; the outlines of the gown are marked, although these have been changed at the painting stage.

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

Other versions can be found in the following collections:
- The Deanery, Ripon – part of a set
- Longleat (Marquess of Bath) – part of a set
- Eton College – from a set
- Syon House (Duke of Northumberland, formerly at Albury) – from a set
- Royal Collection – from a set
- Trinity College, Cambridge
- Helmingham Hall (Lord Tollemache)
- Hardwick Hall (National Trust)
- Christ Church College, Oxford
- Welbeck Abbey (Duke of Portland)
- Dulwich Picture Gallery, DPG532
- Anglesey Abbey, National Trust, NT 515569
- Society of Antiquaries London, Burlington House, LDSAL 329:Scharf XXII
- V&A Museum, 572-1882
- Lacock Abbey, Fox Talbot Museum and Village, National Trust, NT 996319
- The Burrell Collection, 35.632

Versions have been seen in the salerooms at:
- Sotheby’s, London – 21 July 1965 (lot 3)
- Christie’s, London – 10 April 1970 (formerly in the collection of the Earl of Ellenborough)
- Christie’s, London – 27-29 September 1992 (lot 551) (formerly at Pitchford Hall)
- Sotheby’s, London - 12 November 1997 (lot 31)
- Sotheby’s, London – 6 December 2012 (lot 107) (formerly in the Saumarez collection)
- Christie’s, New York - 26 January 2005 (lot 53)

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.149-52


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 pigment mixture used in s…
Micro 04. Detail of inscription (10 x mag).…
Micro 05. Detail of jewel on hat (7.1 x mag).
Micro 06. Detail of pearl (10 x mag).
Micro 07. Detail of decoration on tunic (7.1…
Micro 08. Azurite particles on the sleeve dec…
UV 01. Front of the panel in ultra violet lig…
Reverse 01. Back of the panel in raking light…

Compare Images (what's this? )

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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 a noticeable warp but appears to be in stable condition. The filling and restoration has a opened a little with a crack in the lower left. The paint surface has suffered severe flaking and blistering
in the past and the lower part has an uneven lumpy surface. In some parts there has not been room to lay the paint down properly, which has resulted in raised edges. The restoration seems adequately matched. The varnish is even and slightly matt.


Support type: Eastern Baltic oak

Number of boards: 3

Panel Orientation: Vertical

Panel condition observations

The left-hand join has been reinforced from the reverse with canvas and glue. The right-hand join has been secured more recently with adhesive and with hardboard inserts at the top and bottom. The panel has a warp and has suffered from woodworm damage around the panel joins. There are two nails at the top (covered at the back by repairs) and two repaired nail holes on each side of the panel, probably related to a past hanging method, or to set the panel in panelling. There is a hole in the centre of the panel approximately 6.5 cm from the upper edge that is also likely to be associated with an earlier hanging system. This hole has caused a slight disruption to the paint on the front of the panel. There is an old National Portrait Gallery paper label stuck on the reverse and a later paper sticker referring to conservation attention by Clifford Freeman in 1974. There are pencil marks directly on the reverse of the panel, although it is not possible to decipher them. There are also notations in a dark red material including 'X' and 'I' in roman numerals.

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: 1574


For analysis the boards were labelled A to C from the left (from the front). No sapwood was present on the edges of the boards, which means that a terminus post quem can be applied to the panel. The series on Boards B and C match well and appear to derive from the same tree. The last measured tree ring on Board B dated to 1567 and for Board C dated to 1574. Adding the minimum expected number of sapwood rings to the combined series suggested these boards were made from a tree felled after 1582. Board B is below the normal width (227mm) for an eastern Baltic board which suggests that it had been significantly trimmed and it is not appropriate to apply an eastern Baltic 8-40 year LEHR-usage range to this panel.

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 wood grain, panel joins and large area of repaired damage at the lower edge can all be seen in x-ray (see x-ray mosaic 01). The nail hole in the top of the hat and the holes at the sides can also be seen. X-ray also shows the two nails at the top of the panel that are now covered at the back by the hardboard insets. The face is painted with soft blending and the costume details are clear and crisp.

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.

The underdrawing visible in the face using infrared reflectography shows clear evidence of transfer with little elaboration (see DIRR01). The lines have been confidently applied and are closely followed in the paint layers above. The underdrawing in the costume appears less confident and marks the outlines of the coat, although many of these have been changed at the painting stage.

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 sample were taken for analysis in April 2011.

The panel was prepared with a chalk ground. There appears to be a priming.

Sleeve, Yellow and brown
Sample 1: Cross-section shows a chalk ground. Over this there is a brownish paint layer containing red lead and small particles of black, and milky white particles that are most likely to be lead soaps. Over this there is a thin uneven black particulate layer, which may be traces of underdrawing. The uppermost paint layer is a brighter orange, containing red lead and lead white. It is likely that there is no priming present because it does not extend right to the edges of the panel. The black particulate layer could be the drawing for the sleeve pattern. The upper layers are the paint for the yellow sleeve pattern.

Sample 2: There is no ground present in the cross-section; the lowest layer is wood from the panel. It is likely that the ground and priming do not extend right to the edge of the panel, where the samples were taken. Over the wood in the sample there is a pink/peach coloured layer, containing finely ground red and orange earth pigments, lead white and carbon black.

Brownish/blue jewel on the costume
Sample 3: Dispersion contains lead white, a little of the surrounding red ochre and a scattering of what may be smalt and/or azurite.

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 flesh paint is finely blended with little evidence of brushstrokes. Details in the costume are applied in a methodical manner. As with the other portraits of the Tudor monarchs in this set, there is no gilding and lead-tin yellow is used for gold elements.

Preparation layers
The panel was prepared with a chalk ground and a priming layer. The carbon underdrawing was closely followed in the paint layers and is visible beneath the surface in certain areas.

Dark vertical lines are visible beneath the upper paint layers around the eye (see micro 02). These appear to be an initial underlayer applied with a very stiff brush. Around the eye socket the flesh paint has been thinly laid in, allowing the darker layer to define the areas of shadow. The upper flesh layers have been finely blended and modelled with little evidence of brushwork. The flesh paint contains finely ground vermilion mixed with a little red lake, black and white in varying proportions. Pinker areas of the flesh contain more red lake. The shadow along the sitter’s nose and around his neck is a warm brown wash containing a mixture of pigments including azurite (see micro 03). In other areas of shadow thin, translucent layers of black have been applied over the flesh paint. Large particles of red lake have been used in the paint for the lips, mixed with vermilion and a little black. The parting of the lips has been defined with an initial line of dark grey, emphasised with a red lake glaze that now has a brownish appearance.

The underdrawing is clearly visible around the eyes (see micro 01 and micro 02). Over this layer the iris has been painted in earth pigments mixed with black, with the pupil applied on top. The highlights have been added at a later stage with lead white. The highlight on the eye on the right includes a few scattered particles of red. The whites of the eyes have been applied up and around the iris. White highlights have been finely blended wet-in-wet in this area and containing a small amount of red pigment. The upper eyelids have been defined with a stroke of reddish brown paint and emphasised with a second stroke of black, which has also been used for the fine eyelashes. Unusually there is no red marking the corners of the eyes, but a thin line of paint containing red lake has been applied along the bottom eyelid which now has a brown appearance.

A similar underlayer is visible in the hair on the right as that used under the eyes. A dark brown paint has been applied with marked vertical lines, creating a warm underlayer for the hair. At a later stage the hair has been modelled using thicker strokes of grey and brown loosely blended together.

Hat and costume
The hat has been painted with black mixed with earth pigments including oranges and reds. A reserve has been left for the jewel, which has a warm orange base layer (see micro 05). Over this a paint mixture containing lead-tin yellow has been used for the gold setting of the jewels. The rubies have been painted with red lake with lead white highlights blended in. The red used for areas of the costume is a mixture of red lead and lead white with traces of a red lake glaze in some areas. The golden threads on the sleeves and undershirt contain lead-tin yellow mixed with azurite (see micro 07 and micro 08). They have been systematically and methodically applied. The fur collar and trim around the sleeves has been simply painted in dark, warm grey and brushed out over the red costume to create the illusion of individual strands of fur. The jewelled chain has been painted over the costume layer. The gold setting for the jewels has been painted with lead-tin yellow and an orange pigment; in some areas this has been defined with a translucent warm brown paint. The pearls have been painted with fine brushstrokes in greys and whites with scattered red and blue pigment particles (see micro 06).

Background and inscription
The background paint contains finely ground red and orange earth pigments, lead white and carbon black. The paint has been broadly applied with textured brushstrokes, which may now be emphasised by a dirt layer. The inscription has been painted in lead-tin yellow with a few particles of black and earth pigments (see micro 04).

Order of construction
- Ground
- Priming
- Underdrawing
- Background
- Underlayer for hair and eyes
- Hair
- Red of costume
- Grey collar and fur
- Black collar
- Jewels and details
- Flesh modelling
- Hat
- Inscription

Lead white, carbon black, red lake, vermilion, red lead, azurite, smalt, red ochre, earth pigments, lead-tin yellow, smalt (possibly)

Ultra violet examination (what's this? )

Ultra Violetclose

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

In ultra violet light the surface has an uneven green fluorescence, which relates to the remains of an earlier varnish layer that appears to have been partially cleaned (see UV 01). There is extensive retouching in the background, along the panel joins and in the face. The bottom of the panel has suffered from extensive damage in the past and as a consequence has large areas of fill and retouching.


Frame type: Not original.

Frame date: Late 20th century.


Carved and ebonised frame with Egg and Dart motifs.