Last week an Irish Facebook friend and Tudor enthusiast suggested we put more art on Facebook. He asked me to post something about Hans Holbein. I began with Holbein’s famous painting of Henry VIII, but couldn’t resist – I had to share family members painted by the great man.
I’ve noticed some of the people who sat for Holbein seemed somewhat awkward about or uncomfortable with the situation. I am most haunted by our Sir Henry Wyatt.
His painting is oil on oak, only 15.4″ x 12.2.” According to Wikipedia, which does a nice job of documenting the art they share with us, it’s in the Louvre Museum, on the second floor, room 8.
This is the face that endured the application of horse barnacles during torture ordered by Richard III. He was only 23 when imprisoned and locked away until the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. He lived with that face for a long time.
“In the Louvre picture Sir Henry is represented at half-length, slightly turned to the right, wearing a black skull-cap over his long hair, and the customary overcoat with deep fur collar, and green under-sleeves ; from his shoulders hangs a large heavy gold chain, to which a gold cross is attached, which he grasps with his right hand, and holds a folded paper in his left. He is clean-shaven, and has a large rounded nose. The wrinkled face, the small tremulous mouth, and the tired eyes with the sadness of their expression, produce a very life-like effect of old age. The chain is put on with real gold, in a way which Holbein practised from time to time in England.” Hans Holbein the Younger: Volume 1 by Arthur Bensley Chamberlain
Experts think it was painted around 1537 – around the same time as his son’s portrait and very near the time of his death. Sir Henry was born in 1460, died at 76 or 77 on 10 November, 1537.
Sir Thomas Wyatt the Poet …
He would have been around 34 in 1537. Wikipedia tells us this is “Black and coloured chalks, pen and ink on pink-primed paper, 37.3 × 27.2 cm, Royal Collection, Windsor Castle.” One of my books (Holbein by Jane Roberts) says it was “Black and coloured chalks and ink applied with pen and brush on pink prepared paper 37.1 x 27 cm.” We’re told Holbein also drew a profile portrait.
According to Holbein’s Drawings at Windsor Castle by Phaidon, “On a pale pink priming, 14 11/16 x 10 11/16”: chalks: black, red (face, patch at shoulder on left, another on chest), brown (beard); reinforced with the pen in indian ink (hair, beard). Eyes: grey-blue. Inscribed (gold and scarlet) in left upper corner Tho: Wiatt Knight. The face is considerably stained.”
Phaidon also mentions “Another portrait of Wyatt by Holbein is also lost. From it derive the small circular woodcut which appeared in Leland’s Naeniae in mortem ?Thomae Viati, 1542, and two circular paintings, in reverse to the woodcut, in the Bodleian Library and National Portrait Gallery.” I think this refers to the following image:
According to Wikipedia: “Portrait of Sir Thomas Wyatt. Oil on panel, 31.7 cm diameter, National Portrait Gallery, London. This oil portrait of Wyatt in a medallic profile composition derives from a lost drawing or painting by Hans Holbein the Younger of about 1540. Holbein’s woodcut for Leland’s Naenia presumably follows the original version. Four 16th-century copies by other hands survive, of which this is one of two at the National Portrait Gallery”
So then, what’s this? Wikipedia says “A high-quality copy of this drawing by another hand survives, perhaps from the Elizabethan period (K. T. Parker, The Drawings of Hans Holbein at Windsor Castle, Oxford: Phaidon, 1945.” (I don’t like it.)
This is Margaret Wyatt, Lady Lee – Sir Henry’s only daughter, Sir Thomas’ sister, dear friend of Anne Boleyn. Apparently Margaret was also known as Mary, so Wikipedia is confused about “which sister” was Anne’s loyal Lady in Waiting. She looks so different from her father and brother, I wonder if she took after her mother – Anne Skinner.
Wikipedia dates it at about 1540, tempera on panel, 16.7 × 12.9″ – currently in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Margaret was the mother of Sir Henry Lee, Queen Elizabeth’s champion. (Check it out; I swear I can see some Wyatt in his painting. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_Henry_Lee)
Some think this Holbein may be Elizabeth Brooke, wife of Sir Thomas Wyatt the Poet.
According to Holbein’s Drawings at Windsor Castle by Phaidon, “The inscription is certainly incorrect, the features showing no resemblance whatever with the well authenticated drawing of Anne Boleyn in Lord Bradford’s possession… It is possible that there is indirect evidence of the sitter’s identity in the occurrence of various heraldic sketches on the reverse of the drawing, these being the coat-of-arms of the Wyatt family.”
Her brother was George Brooke, 9th Baron of Cobham. Do we see a resemblance? I think so, but it’s hard to say.
Sir Thomas Wyatt’s brother-in-law took part in the trail of Anne Boleyn and got caught up in his son’s rebellion against Queen Mary.
Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger was born in 1521. He was about 15 or 16 when his grandfather died, 20 or 21 when his father died. He was one of the leaders of the rebellion opposing Queen Mary’s desire to marry Philip of Spain. Henry’s grandson was executed at 32 or 33 at Tower Hill on 11 April 1554.
This is a Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger by Holbein. Wikipedia says “Oil on circular panel: Diameter 12 5/8 in. (32 cm.) Painted circa 1540-42.”
“Provenance: Presumably commissioned by sitter’s father Sir Thomas Wyatt Senior (1503 – 1542), Thence likely by descent to sitter and dispersed with his property after his execution in 1554; With J. Tremlett Esq. by whom sold; Christie’s, 22 November 1974, lot 152”
Other close friends of Sir Thomas Wyatt the Poet were painted by Holbein, but let us not end this post without adding the Wyatt family’s powerful friend Thomas Cromwell.
According to Wikipedia, “Three early versions of this painting survive: this one, in the Frick Collection, New York; one in the National Portrait Gallery, London (see ‘other versions’ below); and one at Burton Constable, Yorkshire, England. Art scholar Roy Strong believed that all three were copies and, while the condition of all three is poor, that the Frick version is in the best condition. Art scholar John Rowlands, however, has since deduced from pentimenti (signs of alteration) revealed by X-ray photographs that the Frick version shows the hand of Holbein himself and is the original. He is followed in this attribution by art scholar Stephanie Buck. All three versions had scrolls painted above Cromwell’s head, but the scroll on the Frick version, which was painted after Cromwell’s execution, was removed during restoration. The painting has been over-restored, resulting in the removal of much of the surface subtlety characteristic of Holbein.”
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