From Saturday 28 May, Henry VIII makes a re-appearance in the Tudor apartments at Hampton Court, as one of Holbein’s most recognisable portraits of the King goes on display at the palace.
This portrait of Henry, painted during the final years of his reign, is one of the most important in existence, and one of the few surviving painted during the King’s lifetime. It is based on a likeness produced in the workshop of Hans Holbein, Henry’s court artist and one of the greatest of all portrait painters. While several other versions of this portrait survive, this copy – in the collection of Castle Howard for over 300 years - is considered to be among the finest.
Holbein’s portrait of Henry represents sovereign power. He stares straight at us, intimidating and inspiring - an awesome reminder of the man himself. Holbein was renowned throughout Europe for his ability to capture likeness and to generate a real sense of physical presence, and his portraits of Henry VIII are more than potent statements of royal authority – they paint a picture of a formidable man and ruler.
The painting is now displayed in the Wolsey Closet at Hampton Court Palace, a rare surviving Tudor interior at Henry’s Thames-side home. The room is a restored portion of Henry’s private chambers - almost all of which were destroyed during the construction of William III’s new palace in the 17th century. The setting evokes the intimacy and opulence of a typical 16th-century ‘closet’, a private retreat where the King could relax or entertain his closest companions.
Hampton Court Palace has a long history of displaying great works of art. Over the centuries, successive monarchs filled the state apartments with splendid tapestries, paintings, sculpture and decorative furnishings for the private enjoyment of the royal family, or as imposing statements of regal authority. Although the palace’s life as a royal residence came to an end in the eighteenth century, many artworks are still in their original locations and form part of the story of the palace today.
For more information and images, please contact Laura Hutchinson in the Historic Royal Palaces Press Office: firstname.lastname@example.org/ 0203 166 6338/07990 726 229.