Edward, Prince of Wales (later Edward VI), ca. 1538
Oil on panel
23 1/4 x 17 1/2 in. (59 x 44.5 cm)
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When Henry VIII died in 1547, his only son, Edward, became king. The new king was nine years old and ruled in name only under the guidance of a council of advisers. Edward's mother, Jane Seymour, had died two weeks after his birth. The king was devastated by her death and poured all his affection on his son. Henry's hopes for his son to continue his religious and political reforms and produce a male heir largely were unfulfilled, for Edward died just six years after succeeding to the throne at the age of fifteen, the last Tudor king.
Bavarian-born artist Hans Holbein the Younger was appointed Henry VIII's official painter in 1536, responsible for painting the portraits of the royal household. He painted this portrait of Edward when the boy was about fourteen months old. Although Edward is no more than a toddler, he is portrayed here as a small adult, standing in an adult pose, wearing adult dress, his hand raised in the gesture of an orator. It is a fitting image for the son and heir of one of the most powerful men in Europe. Another, almost identical, version of this painting is in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Sir Robert Strange; Christie's, May 5, 1775, lot 51, "Holbein, A Portrait of Edward VI, formerly in the Royal Collection and presumed to be one of the capital works of this master"; Sir Richard Worsley, 7th Baronet of Appuldurcombe (1751-1805); by descent through his niece, Henrietta Anna Maria Charlotte Simpson, wife of Charles Anderson-Pelham, 2nd Baron and 1st Earl of Yarborough, to Charles Alfred, 4th Earl of Yarborough; Christie’s, London, July 12, 1929, lot 40; from which acquired by Francis Harvey for John, 4th Marquess of Bute (1881-1947); by descent at Mount Stuart; Bute Collection sale, Christie’s, London, July 3, 1996, lot 116
A. B. Chamberlain, Hans Holbein the Younger, London, 1913, II, pl. 22; K. T. Parker, The Drawings of Hans Holbein in the Collection of His Majesty the King at Windsor Castle, Oxford and London, 1945, under no. 46; P. Ganz, The Paintings of Hans Holbein, London, 1950, under no. 105; R. Strong, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, London, 1968, I, p. 92; H. W. Grohn, L'Opera Pittorica Completa di Holbein il Giovane, Milan, 1971, under no. 115; J. Rowlands, Holbein, Oxford, 1985, under no. 70; J. O. Hand, German Paintings of the Fifteenth through Seventeenth Centuries, Washington, D. C., 1995, p. 88 and n.19
Exhibited: British Institution, London, 1849, no. 159; Manchester, Art Treasures Exhibition, 1857, no. 55; [London?], National Portrait Exhibition, 1866, no. 176; Burlington House, London, 1875, no. 179; New Gallery, [London?], Tudor Exhibition, 1890, no. 174 (the foregoing according to Christie’s, London, July 12, 1929, lot 40); Burlington Fine Arts Club, London, 1909, no. 62; Denver Art Museum, 600 Years of British Painting: The Berger Collection, exh. cat., 1998-199, pp. 36, 37, repr.; British Library, London, Man and Monarch: Henry VIII, exh. cat., ed. Susan Doran, 2009, no. 187, repr.
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