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Key facts
Full title Henry VII and Henry VIII
Artist Hans Holbein the Younger
Artist dates 1497/8 - 1543
Date made about 1536-7
Medium and support Ink and watercolour on paper
Dimensions 257.8 × 137.2 cm
Acquisition credit On loan from National Portrait Gallery, London. Accepted in lieu of tax by H.M. Government and allocated to the Gallery, 1957
Inventory number L1279
Location Room 2
Art route(s) C
Image copyright On loan from National Portrait Gallery, London. Accepted in lieu of tax by H.M. Government and allocated to the Gallery, 1957
Collection Main Collection
Henry VII and Henry VIII
Hans Holbein the Younger

King Henry VIII dominates this drawing, as imposing in breadth as in height. Holbein made this full-scale cartoon in preparation for his life-size painted portraits of Henry VIII, his third wife Jane Seymour and his parents King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. The painting, completed in 1537, once decorated the King’s Privy Chamber at Whitehall Palace, where Henry received important guests to his court. These painted celebrations of the Tudor dynasty were destroyed when Whitehall Palace burnt down in 1698.

The cartoon conveys a powerful sense of the impact of the original painting, which made a strong impression on visitors to the Privy Chamber. One reported how he had felt ‘abashed and annihilated’ by the portrait. Small prick marks are visible on the outlines of the drawing. These were used to transfer the design onto the wall, as charcoal was scattered through the holes. Holbein’s composition was inspired by his 1533 portrait of two French ambassadors to the English court, which hangs nearby.

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