Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
Henry VIII (1491-1547)
This miniature and a second of Henry VIII in the Royal Collection (420640) are two from a group of seven miniatures by Horenbout that are the earliest detached portrait miniatures to have been painted in England. Both miniatures appear to have been created at about the same time, thought from the inscription on 420640 to be between June 1526 and June 1527. In this miniature Henry VIII is shown clean-shaven rather than bearded as in other examples from this group, but it was not unusual for Henry to grow and then shave a beard within a short space of time. He is known for example to have announced in August 1519 his intention to keep his beard until his meeting with Francis I at the Field of the Cloth of Gold the following year, but he is known to have shaved it off by November 1519. Thomas Boleyn, English Ambassador to France, commented ‘As I suppose, it hath been by the Queen’s desire; for… I have heard hereafore time known when the King’s grace hath worn long his beard, that the Queen hath daily made him great instance, and desired him put it off for her sake’.
Lucas Horenbout, son of Gerard Horenbout, Court Painter to Margaret of Austria, Regent of the Netherlands, was trained in his father's workshop and was already renowned as an illuminator by the time he arrived in England in the mid-1520s. Employed by Henry VIII from 1525 onwards, he was appointed to the office of King's Painter in 1534, a position which was renewed in 1544. Twenty-two miniatures have been attributed to Horenbout, dating from c. 1525-c. 1543/4. His later work was overshadowed by the output of his brilliant pupil in the art of miniature painting, Hans Holbein the Younger.