The Berger Collection

English School
Henry VII, 1510-20
Oil on panel
12 1/2 x 10 1/2 in. (31.8 x 26.8 cm)

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Henry Tudor was crowned Henry VII of England in 1485 (reigned 1485-1509). He immediately set about creating a solid, lasting dynasty. He began by marrying the conquered Richard III's niece, Elizabeth of York, merging the houses of Lancaster and York. He then instituted reforms to restrict the power of the nobility and increase his own control over the country. To establish his dynasty, he married off his children to foreign royalty. By arranging these marriages, Henry VII ensured peace, security, and trade with his neighboring countries. He was intelligent and spent his wealth wisely, portraying the Tudors as majestic and cultured. Henry is shown holding the red Tudor rose, referring to his Lancastrian past and symbolizing the future Tudor dynasty resting in his hands. He wears a red robe with slashed sleeves revealing an opulent cloth-of-gold gown underneath and an elegant black cap bearing an enseigne, or cap badge, and three pendant pearls. The painting's format, typical of British portraits of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, is bust-length and shows Henry's face in a three-quarter view and both his hands resting on a ledge at the bottom of the picture. Toward the end of the sixteenth century, small works such as this went out of fashion, in favor of larger paintings to decorate bigger and more impressive houses. It is probable that after his death in 1509 a number of portraits, including this one from about 1510-20, were produced or copied from earlier images, in order to commemorate the founder of the Tudor dynasty, who had brought peace and prosperity to his country.


Private collection, U.K.; Michael Estorick, London

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