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History

The ultimate royal image maker to take starring role in new Buckingham Palace exhibition

The Royal Collection Trust is staging a landmark exhibition this winter focusing on some of the most impressive portraits from the Tudor period. “Holbein at the Tudor Court” will showcase many of the surviving works from Tudor artist Hans Holbein.

Hans Holbein the Younger was a German-Swiss painter and woodcarver who originally trained under his father, Hans Holbein the Elder. He rose to prominence as a Northern Renaissance painter after connecting with philosopher and scholar Desiderius Erasmus. 

Holbein first moved to England in the 1520s and was commissioned to create portraits of several leading noblemen and members of the clergy. Notably, Erasmus’ friend and fellow scholar, Sir Thomas More, welcomed Holbein. More was a close friend of King Henry VIII and was one of his trusted advisors. Holbein did not work for the King on this first visit to England, but Henry was aware of his work. 

When he returned to England in 1532, he was welcomed by the then-favourite of the King, Anne Boleyn. In 1533, he completed one of his most famous portraits, The Ambassadors. He also was working soon after with another of the King’s advisors, Thomas Cromwell. 

In 1536, he was made the King’s Painter and officially worked for the King. He created portraits of King Henry VIII, his third wife Jane Seymour, his son (the future-King Edward VI), his parents (King Henry VII and Queen Elizabeth of York) and a fateful portrait of Anne of Cleves. Henry later claimed that Anne, his fourth wife, looked nothing like her portrait. 

“Holbein at the Tudor Court” will open at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, on Friday, 10 November 2023 and will close on 14 April 2024. The exhibition will include portraits of King Henry VIII, Sir Thomas More, William Reskimer, and a young Henry Brandon, 2nd Duke of Suffolk. 

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Historian and blogger at AnHistorianAboutTown.com