Henry, Prince of Wales
3 of 73194 portraits matching these criteria:
- place 'London'
- Tudor and Jacobean Portraits Database
Henry, Prince of Wales
by Robert Peake the Elder
oil on canvas, circa 1610
68 in. x 44 3/4 in. (1727 mm x 1137 mm)
A portrait of Henry, Prince of Wales that is strikingly reminiscent of portraits of Edward VI that were originally commissioned to celebrate his investiture as Prince of Wales, and may have been originally intended to hang near to one of these in one of the royal palaces. Unusually, the canvas support has been prepared with a ground containing quartz and no chalk.
The portrait is believed to have been in the collection of Elizabeth of Bohemia and to have been given or bequeathed by her to William, 1st Earl of Craven, or to have been acquired from her son, Prince Rupert, who inherited much of his mother’s collection. The portrait was purchased by the Gallery from the estate of the Countess of Craven by private treaty sale in 1966, with help from the National Art Collections Fund.
The jewel on the hat includes Henry’s ‘HP’ monogram and he also wears the ‘Lesser George’ and a jewelled garter; the text in the garter is incorrectly spelt ‘PENSES’ and several of the letters are inverted.
Notes on attribution
James I’s Serjeant Painter, Robert Peake the Elder, produced a number of portraits of the royal children, which can be linked both stylistically and through their distinctive layer structure. For example, the treatment of the highlights on the metallic threads in the textiles compares closely to the full-length portrait of Elizabeth of Bohemia of a similar date (NPG 6113).
Justification for dating
The feathers on the border of the tablecloth suggest that Henry had already been made Prince of Wales (created 4th June 1610) at the time this portrait was painted. Comparison with other portraits would support the suggestion that he is depicted at the age of sixteen and the technique and materials in use are entirely consistent with a work from this period.
The painting was executed on a single piece of plain weave canvas; a narrow strip with a coarser weave was added at the top at a later date. The paint surface has suffered considerable abrasion, much of which seems to be due to the lining treatment, and consequently the interpretation of the layer structure and technique is problematic.
The original canvas was prepared with two layers: the lower layer has an orange/yellow tone and contains quartz (silica) and earth pigments, whilst the upper layer is pale and contains mostly lead white, with a little black. Curved broad shapes seen in the x-ray were made when the priming was spread with a priming knife. Very similar preparation layers have been identified in the portrait of Elizabeth of Bohemia (NPG 6113), Henry, Prince of Wales at Parham House and the portrait of Elizabeth of Bohemia in the Metropolitan Museum, New York.
Each area of the composition was broadly painted with an underlayer of the appropriate colour, and the details were then applied on top of this to create the effect of detailed and sumptuous fabrics. Similar undermodelling for the flesh was noted in the portrait of Henry, Prince of Wales at Parham House. The use of hatched highlights, applied perpendicular to the fold, is a characteristic of Peake’s technique. The method used for the carpet can be compared to the portrait of Elizabeth of Bohemia in the Metropolitan Museum; the pattern was blocked in initially and the texture was created with small regular dabs of paint in a slightly lighter tone to the underlayer. High quality materials were used in the painting, including good quality smalt and azurite. Unusually for this period, a layer of silver leaf was applied beneath the red paint of the curtain. Wrinkling in the paint, caused by past lining treatment, has distorted the silver leaf layer and the intended effect is almost lost.
Drawing and transfer technique
No underdrawing was detected during surface examination or using infrared reflectography. Some small changes occurred during the painting process; for example, a reserve appears to have been left for the hand and glove that doesn’t correspond to the final painted position.
Other known versions
A number of surviving half-length and bust-length portraits use the same face pattern:
- Museum of London, A23271
- Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, LP66
- Audley End (English Heritage)
- Falkland Palace and Garden, National Trust for Scotland, 52.708
A copy of the portrait was made by Henry Pierce Bone, 1845
-Christie’s, 21 April 1998, lot 25
Catalogue of the Pictures at Combe Abbey, Warwickshire, 1866, no. 28
MacLeod, Catharine, ‘Henry, Prince of Wales’, in C. MacLeod, ed., The Lost Prince: The Life and Death of Henry Stuart, exh. cat., National Portrait Gallery, 2012, cat. no. 45, p. 120
MacLeod, Catharine, ‘Robert Peake: Portraits, patrons and technical evidence’, in T. Cooper, A. Burnstock, M. Howard and E. Town, eds, Painting in Britain 1500-1630: Production, Influences and Patronage, Oxford, 2015, pp. 288-97
Rae, Caroline, ‘Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, John de Critz, Robert Peake and William Larkin: A comparative study’, in T. Cooper, A. Burnstock, M. Howard and E. Town, eds, Painting in Britain 1500-1630: Production, Influences and Patronage, Oxford, 2015, pp. 171-9
Strong, Roy, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, London, 1969, p.162
Strong, Roy, Henry, Prince of Wales and England’s Lost Renaissance, 1986
‘The Lost Prince and the Winter Queen: Royal Portraits from the National Portrait Gallery, London’, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, 2014
‘The Lost Prince: The Life and Death of Henry Stuart’, National Portrait Gallery, London, 2012-2013
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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 painting is in a stable condition and is well tensioned on its stretcher. The tacking margins of the lining canvas are fragile with small tears occurring in areas; old repairs indicate that this is an ongoing problem. The paint layer has suffered from considerable loss, damage and abrasion in the past but is currently stable.
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.
Last date of tree ring: n/a
The painting is on a canvas support.
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.
Twenty-one x-ray plates were made to record the composite whole, but as two plates cut through the head, a separate plate was made in order to show the whole head.
In x-ray the join between the original canvas and an addition along the upper edge is visible. The poor condition of the painting is also clear, with numerous small damages and losses across the paint surface (see x-ray mosaic 01). Two old tears are visible, which are in vertical alignment; one to the right of the sitter's head and one running through the left knee. Below the current horizontal crossbar of the stretcher, two lines run across the painting which are likely to be stretcher bar marks from the original wooden stretcher. Curved ridges can be seen in the x-ray where the priming was spread out by the priming knife. The loose, confident brushwork used to lay in the costume can clearly be seen in x-ray, and is especially prominent in the sleeves. The belt holding the sitter's sword appears as a continuous line in x-ray running beneath the doublet.
A technique used to observe the layers beneath the paint surface which can reveal underdrawing and changes to the initial design.
No underdrawing is discernible using infrared reflectography. The broad, confident brushstroke marking out the parting between the sitter's lips is visible (see IRR mosaic 01). It seems likely that this is a mark used to indicate the position and shape of the lips early on in the construction of the work using a very fluid, medium-rich paint. A possible pentiment is visible at the hand on the left: a reserve appears to have been left for the hand and glove but the position of the painted hand does not correspond to the reserve and the glove extends over the reserve (see IRR mosaic 03). The cuff on this hand was originally planned to have been wider but has been changed in the final composition.
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 to analyse the pigments and layer structure of the painting in November 2010.
The canvas was prepared with a double ground (or ground with a thick priming): an orange/yellow ground layer containing earth pigments, followed by a lead white priming containing traces of black pigment. The lower layer consists of a substance of low refractive index, which is probably quartz (silica). The pigment mixture appears to be yellow ochre, red ochre and some black. The priming over this layer contains white lead with traces of black. The ground layers have a very similar structure to NPG 6113 Elizabeth of Bohemia.
Samples 2 and 3: The sky in the original part of the landscape composition contains smalt mixed with azurite. The clouds are pale grey in colour and contain lead white; in areas this pale paint has been applied over a much darker paint layer which has a further layer of pale blue beneath it. The trees in the landscape are painted with a mixture of good quality azurite and lead-tin yellow.
Sample 1A: The paint on the addition at the top shows a structure unlike the main part of the painting. The mixed sky paint contains bright bluish green particles of viridian and a fine particled lead white paint, both of which suggest that the addition was made in the nineteenth century. The mixture also contains red and black particles. There is a greyish underlayer.
Sample 4: The green trees are painted with a mixture of azurite, occasional smalt particles, lead-tin yellow and yellow ochre.
Samples 8 and 13: The blue of the ribbon around the sitter's neck and the Garter medal appears to be a mixture of blues, although in dispersion only azurite could be identified. Prussian blue was found in areas of later overpaint. Yellow ochre has been used for the decorations on the costume. Lead-tin yellow has been used for the highlights with the addition of small amounts of red earth in some areas to add warmth to the paint mix.
Samples 10 and 11: Silver leaf has been found under the area of the curtain and was applied over the pale priming layer. In a part of sample 11 the silver layer appears to lie directly over the pale orange/brown ground layer. The silver shows through the red glaze to form highlights.
Sample 10: The lighter red layer over the silver leaf contains mainly red ochre, with some lamp black and azurite. Dark paint containing a high proportion of black pigment has been used to model the shadows of the curtain.
Sample 11: The darker red glaze over the silver leaf contains red lake, and occasional particles of blue.
Sample 15: Dark layer with black over silver leaf, and red glaze above.
Carpet and tablecloth
Sample 9: Yellow ochre has been used for passages of the carpet.
Sample 7: The maroon of the tablecloth contains red lake, red ochre and lamp black.
There is smalt in many parts of the painting, including the patterning on the carpet, and it appears to be mixed with azurite in many parts of the sky. The original paint in the cloud contains lead white with particles of smalt and azurite. The azurite has an unusual form of long rectangular crystals. The garter and ribbon were painted with azurite.
The vivid greens contain azurite and lead-tin yellow. In cross section (samples 4 and 5) from the trees an unusually large particle of greenish blue azurite suggests that the painter used good quality azurite for these greens.
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 suffered from considerable damage and loss, and as a result there are extensive passages of retouching. This includes painted lines to match the ageing cracks of the surrounding areas, particularly in the sitter's face. The painting technique makes use of broad and free brushstrokes to mark out the composition with added details on top to create the effect of detailed and sumptuous fabrics. High quality materials have been used in the painting, including fine smalt and azurite. Unusually for this period, a layer of silver leaf has been applied beneath the red curtain. Characteristic parallel marks used for highlights in the curtain, point towards the style of Robert Peake. The economic painting method used to describe the costume has similarities with NPG 6113. The large size of the particles of greenish blue azurite, and the depth of colour and size of the smalt particles, both indicate that the painter used good quality pigments.
The canvas has been prepared with a yellowish coloured ground containing quartz and earth pigments. The priming contains lead white; in x-ray curved ridges can be seen where the priming was spread out with a priming knife (see X-radiography).
The flesh tones of the face have been thinly applied over the pale modelling layer below. The flesh paint contains red, black and a large quantity of blue pigment. The paint mixture in the darker shadows of the face contains a greater proportion of azurite, which has been applied almost like a glaze over the pink flesh tones and is particularly noticeable around the sitter's eyes. The nostril has been defined with a red lake glaze. The hands are very economically painted with thin layers of pink paint applied over the pale priming layer, and red lake used to define the outline and digits.
A fluid brown paint mixture is visible beneath the upper paint layers marking the outline of the upper eyelid. This line has then been defined with a reddish brown paint mixture which has also been used to depict the eyelashes with short brushstrokes. The whites of the eyes contain a high proportion of azurite (see micro 01) and have been painted over the pale underlayer beneath the figure. The irises contain black pigment with a small amount of vermilion and ochre, and a scattering of pale smalt particles.
There is a lot of damage and later restoration in the lips. In losses of the upper paint layers a medium-rich brown layer is visible containing red and blue pigment particles. It appears as though the parting between the lips has been initially marked out with a thin line of paint. The shape of the lips has then been filled in with a paint mix containing vermilion and black with a darker paint mix used to indicate the shadow beneath the mouth. The line of the lips has then been emphasised with a line of red lake glaze (see micro 03).
The hair is very abraded and has been extensively retouched. It appears to have been painted very simply and thinly, with a lower layer of brown paint with highlights and darker shadows painted on top for definition.
The pattern of the costume has been loosely defined with a fluid brown paint on top of the priming layer. A brushy layer of thick white paint has been applied with a stiff brush and covers the area depicting the sleeves, doublet and hose. The texture of the brushstrokes can be seen at the top of the sitter's lower hose beneath the red paint. In the sleeves this has been applied around the brown lines of paint which form part of the final composition. The coloured details of the costume have then been applied on top of this layer in pigments including azurite, vermilion and yellow ochre. Highlights have been added as the final details in white for the sleeves (see micro 12) and vermilion mixed with white for the red of the costume (see micro 14).
Order of the Garter medal
The ribbon appears to be painted with two blues (see micro 10); paint sampling identified azurite as the original blue, with restoration carried out with Prussian blue (see Paint sampling). The blue on the medal is azurite, also with restoration in Prussian blue. The highlights on details are painted with lead white and lead-tin yellow (see micro 11).
Collar and cuffs
The rough shape of the collar has been blocked out with the underlayer, which has been used to mark out the figure. However, in the final composition the collar extends over this area onto the red paint of the curtain behind (see micro 07 and micro 08). The collar and the lace at the collar and cuffs contain large smalt particles (see micro 08 and micro 09). The solid element of the cuff contains finely ground smalt and black.
There is a layer of silver leaf beneath the upper paint layers and it lies beneath the entire area of the curtain (see micro 06). The highlights of the curtain have been painted directly on top of the silver leaf and contain lead white, red ochre, black and azurite. On top of the silver leaf and white highlights is an extensive layer of mixed red lake, and black. The red has pooled in areas where it lies on top of the white highlights. The shadows depicting the folds in the fabric have been painted on top of the red lake layer. There are large drying cracks visible in the darker paint of the shadows which are prominent near the bottom of the curtain. The gold embroidery on the edge of the curtain is painted with earth colours, with lead-tin yellow and white highlights (see micro 05).
The tablecloth seems to have an underlayer containing white, black and smalt. This has been applied in broad, thick brushstrokes indicating the highlights in the folds of the fabric (see micro 17). A mixture of red lake, red ochre and black has been applied as a final overall layer. The embroidery and fringe at the bottom of the cloth have been painted with yellow ochre and lead-tin yellow pigments (see micro 18).
The embroidered feathers were painted in fairly freely with white brushstrokes and then emphasised with crisp white highlights.
The basic colour for each pattern shape was blocked initially. The textural appearance of the carpet tufts has been achieved by small regular dabs of paint in slightly lighter paint corresponding to the colours in the initial blocking in. A dark green used for part of the pattern is likely to have degraded and looks much darker now than when it was originally painted. The pattern has been emphasised by dabs of dense black paint applied around the outline of the patterns (see micro 20).
The hat is thinly painted and is now very abraded. A reserve has been left for the hat and the basic shape has been blocked in with a thin cream underlayer. The red layer visible around the reserve appears to be an underlayer for the background and tablecloth. The feathers have been very simply depicted with a thin grey paint layer loosely covering the ground layers and white highlights used to depict the individual fronds of the feather. Lines of thin grey/brown paint can be seen marking out the contours of the hat and details of the feathers. Because the paint layers are so thin and abraded in this area it is difficult to work out if they lie beneath the paint layers or have been added to emphasise the outlines. The monogram jewel has been painted with black pigment to depict the diamonds, highlighted with white mixed with a small amount of azurite. The rubies are painted in vermilion with a red lake glaze on top. The pearls also contain a high proportion of azurite in the highlights painted over a thin grey layer (see micro 16). The jewels around the brim of the hat have been painted in a similar manner but include a dark green paint base for the headband.
Window and landscape
The window frame has been simply painted in layers of brown paint. There appears to be a darker painted line marking out the right-hand edge of the vertical frame; the edge of the left-hand side extends over landscape paint. The landscape has been thinly painted, particularly in the sky where the pale priming is visible through the thin brushstrokes of blue paint containing azurite particles (see micro 15). The trees have been painted with greenish blue azurite, with unusually large particles, and lead-tin yellow (see micro 13).
Addition along upper edge
The paint which extends onto the additional piece of canvas along the upper edge has a different craquelure pattern compared to the rest of the paint and the canvas weave is more prominent. A thin buff-coloured priming layer is visible in some passages, but it is not clear if this extends across the whole addition. The layer structure of the curtain in this area is very different, with no silver leaf present and vermilion being used for the lighter passages with red lake glazes on top. The sky visible in the landscape has been painted with a very finely ground pigment mixture, which has the appearance of a nineteenth-century green and has been identified as viridian (see Paint sampling).
Order of construction
- Light brown ground containing quartz
- Very pale grey priming
- Underpaint marking out the central figure
- Medium-rich paint marking position of principal elements
- Costume detail
Lead white, charcoal black, lamp black, vermilion, red lake, azurite, smalt, yellow ochre, red ochre, lead-tin yellow, earth pigments, silver leaf
Changes in composition/pentimenti
The position of the fingers on the hand on the left have been altered. The original position of the reserve indicates that the sitter was planned with a looser grip on the gloves. The cuff of the sleeve on the left was originally planned to be wider than it appears in the final composition.
The paint layers appear to have suffered damage during a previous lining treatment. As a consequence some wrinkling of the paint layers has occurred. The painting has a large amount of damage and abrasion, particularly in the sitter's face which has been retouched. It is unclear when the additional strip of canvas was added to the top of the painting, but the canvas weave and pigments do not match the original, which suggests a later date.
A method which helps to reveal past restoration and the extent of varnish layers.
Examination in ultra violet light showed that there are remnants of an old resinous varnish across the surface of the painting, notably in the darker elements of the background composition. There are numerous scattered retouchings visible on the painting, with a large concentration in the sitter's face (see UV01). At the the top of the painting there is a continuous horizontal line of retouching approximately 12 cm from the upper edge, which marks the join between the original canvas and a later addition.