A couple of weeks ago, I visited the ‘Double Take: Versions and Copies of Tudor Portraits’ exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. The exhibition features five sets of paintings and subjects include, Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Archbishop William Warham, Thomas Gresham and Thomas Sackville, 1st Earl of Dorset.
The exhibition is free and is displayed among the portraits of the Tudor Gallery. The famous portrait of Anne Boleyn is finally back on display after the completion of conservation work.
‘Recent research undertaken as part of the ‘Making Art in Tudor Britain’ project has used a variety of scientific techniques to analyse the Gallery’s 16th century paintings, and also comparative works from other collections, in order to explore the way in which these versions and copies were produced.’
c1535-40, oil on panel
c1535-40, oil on panel
Lent by the Society of Antiquaries of London
‘Two portraits depict Henry in his mid-forties…It is possible that both of these portraits derive from the same English workshop. They show the influence of Netherlandish painting techniques, copied from foreign artists who settled in London. A pattern was used to mark out the King’s likeness, which was copied freehand for the smaller version. Similarities in the technique suggest that parts of the painting may have been by the same person.’
Late 16th century, oil on panel
1590-1610, oil on panel
‘As the mother of Elizabeth I, Anne’s image was often included in portrait sets of English monarchs, however only a few versions survive today.
Although these two portraits vary in quality they are based on the same pattern; demonstrating the way in which established face patterns of prominent individuals could be used for many years…In the (second painting), the artist’s complete reliance on a pattern is demonstrated by the unusual painting technique in which the eyes, lips and eyebrows were painted in full and then the flesh was painted around these features.
By contrast, the (first painting) is far more subtle and accomplished. The portrait…has recently undergone structural conservation following a successful fundraising campaign and the generous support of public donations.’
You can read detailed analysis of some of the portraits at the National Portrait Gallery website:
The exhibition runs until 6th September and is well worth a visit to see Anne Boleyn looking her best again!
Italics – copyright National Portrait Gallery.