This is one of a series of historical portraits, given to the Museum in 1758 by Dr Andrew Gifford who joined the staff in 1756 as the Museum’s first numismatist. Described as a 'Pourtrait of King Henry the eighth', it was accompanied by Mary Queen of Scots, James I, the wife of Charles I and the Duke of Buckingham when young, plus two unknown sitters. In the early years of the Museum Gifford donated a number of portraits, some of historical interest, and others like the ‘unknowns’ listed here most probably intended to decorate the walls.
It has been suggested that this is an eighteenth-century copy of better-known paintings by Holbein. There are similarities, but the subject seems to be younger and thinner, with a less forceful appearance. It was however displayed during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as ‘Henry VIII’.
Where to see this painting?
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