Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2015
Henry VIII (1491-1547)
Horenbout's miniature of Henry VIII is one of a group of seven miniatures (also including 420010; Royal Collection) of the king dating from c.1526-7 by this artist which mark the emergence of the miniature from the confines of the illuminated manuscript into a distinct art form. It is thus one of the earliest detached portrait miniatures to have been produced in England. Horenbout may have produced his first portrait miniatures in response to seeing the miniatures of Francis I and his two sons which were sent to Henry VIII by Marguerite of Navarre late in 1526. This miniature of Henry VIII could have been painted between June 1525 and June 1527 as the inscription, placed either side of the sitter' s head, (': H.R./VIII' and ‘ANO. ETATIS. / XXXVO.’) can be taken to mean that the king was aged thirty-five or that he was in this thirty-fifth year and so it is conceivable that it was painted after the receipt of the gift from France. Equally, Horenbout may have arrived independently at such a portrait, the natural result of an illuminator adapting his skills to meet the demands of the Tudor court for portable dynastic images for use as diplomatic gifts. Lucas had been trained in Ghent with his father, Gerard, court artist to Margaret of Austria (Regent of the Netherlands). Henry VIII employed Lucas Horenbout from around 1525 until the artist’s death nearly twenty years later. In 1535 Henry remarked ‘For a long time I have been acquainted not only by reports from others but also from personal knowledge with the science and experience in the pictorial art of Lucas Horenbolte’. Susanna Horenbout came to London at the same time as her brother, and recent studies have questioned her involvement in these early images of Henry VIII, attributing this miniature to her hand. However, she is not listed in the King’s accounts, and the high position that Lucas held at court (where he was paid an annual salary of £33.6s, in comparison with the £30 paid to Holbein) means that he, rather than his sister, was more likely to have been granted personal sittings from the King.
The two miniatures of Henry VIII by Horenbout which remain in the Royal Collection are also possibly the earliest surviving ad vivum (from life) portraits of Henry VIII; this one may have served as the foundation for Joos van Cleve’s portrait a few years later (403368; Royal Collection). As van Cleve is thought never to have travelled to England, this may indicate that this miniature was in Francis I’s collection. It was first recorded with certainty, however, by Abraham van der Doort, who recorded its arrival in the collection of Charles I as a gift from Theophilus Howard, second Earl of Suffolk (1584-1640).
Text adapted from Northern Renaissance: Dürer to Holbein