Portraits of Henry VIII and his Family
by Hans HOLBEIN the Younger

The portraits of English royalty form rather a separate category in his work. Somewhat surprisingly he did not enter the royal service until 1537, but his potential seems to have been recognized by Thomas Cromwell, whom he painted in 1534. Although Holbein created a standard type for portraits of Henry VIII, only one portrait of him is now accepted by all scholars as being from Holbein's own hand. This painting (Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Madrid) was almost certainly the pair to the portrait of Jane Seymour, Henry's third wife (The Hague, Mauritshuis).

Henry married six times. As with virtually all royal marriages of the period, it was not a matter of personal preference or love but of dynastic and political needs. Yet Henry's dealings with his wives differed from those of other princes at the time in that he divorced two of them (Catherine of Aragon and Anne of Cleves). and had two of them executed (Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard). Jane Seymour died after the birth of the future Edward VI, while Catherine Parr outlived him.

Holbein not only created the official image of Henry VIII, which has kept its hold on the popular imagination until the present day, but also captured the whole atmosphere of the Tudor court as it passed through one of the most dramatic periods of English history.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 3 minutes):
Marc-Antoine Charpentier: Marche en Rondeau

Preview Picture Data File Info Comment
Portrait of Henry VIII
Oil on wood, 28 x 19 cm
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

True Color
251 Kb

Henry VIII
after 1537
Oil on canvas, 234 x 135 cm
Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

True Color
177 Kb

Jane Seymour, Queen of England
Oil on wood, 665 x 41 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

True Color
190 Kb

Portrait of Jane Seymour
c. 1537
Oil on oak, 26 x 19 cm
Mauritshuis, The Hague

True Color
148 Kb

Portrait of Anne of Cleves
c. 1539
Parchment mounted on canvas, 65 x 48 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

True Color
148 Kb

Portrait of Edward, Prince of Wales
c. 1539
Oil on oak, 57 x 44 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington

True Color
163 Kb

Portrait of Henry VIII
Oil on panel, 89 x 75 cm
Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome

True Color
196 Kb

Portrait of a Lady
Oil on wood, 72 x 50 cm
Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio

True Color
141 Kb

Henry VIII and the Barber Surgeons
c. 1543
Oak, 180 x 312 cm
Royal College of Surgeons of England, London

True Color
137 Kb

Henry VIII and the Barber Surgeons
c. 1543
Paper mounted on canvas, 160 x 280 cm
Royal College of Surgeons of England, London

True Color
130 Kb

Edward, Prince of Wales
Oil on wood, diameter 32 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

True Color
126 Kb

Summary of paintings by Hans Holbein the Younger
1515-19 | 1519-25 | altarpieces | 1526-28 | 1529-31
1532-35 | Ambassadors | Henry VIII and his family | 1536-43
drawings and woodcuts | miniatures | Miscellaneous works