Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Possible portrait of a young Mary?

In July I mentioned a portrait in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, that is currently undergoing research. It was once alleged to depict a young Mary, though this identification went out of favour some time ago for numerous reasons (amongst them the difficulty of explaining how a portrait of Mary could have been commissioned during the period of her disgrace).

We are fortunate to possess several images of Mary prior to her accession, including a painting by one Master John, now in the National Portrait Gallery. This painting is particularly valuable as it appears to be the first portrait commissioned by Mary herself, probably to commemorate her re-inclusion in the succession (Act of Succession of 1543). The NPG also holds a miniature of Mary by Lucas Horenbout (c.1521-5), which may be the earliest surviving English portrait miniature.

Whilst rummaging through numerous files on my computer, I came across an image of one Holbein miniature purported to be Mary. I thought this would be of interest to those intrigued by the story of The Met portrait. It is a roundel depicting a young woman in profile. It is similar in style to a portrait of Prince Edward (later Edward VI), which is also held in The Met.

'Princess Mary, daughter of Henry VIII', or a young woman of the court of Henry VIII, c. 1543

Paul Ganz in The Paintings of Hans Holbein: First Complete Edition (London: The Phaidon Press Ltd, 1950) provides this brief discussion of the portrait:

'Like the roundel of Prince Edward, the portrait comes from an unknown collection; it was discovered in 1937 completely overpainted and was restored at the same time, whereby the damage to the collar was revealed and repaired. The identification of the sitter with Princess Mary is based not only on the striking similarity between her profile and that of her brother Edward but also on a comparison with various other portraits. An early one in three-quarters view must have been painted by Holbein during a former reconciliation in 1536. It is now lost and known only from an etching by Wenzel Hollar with the inscription: Princeps Maria Henrici VIII Regis Angliae filia. H. Holbein pinxit, W. Hollar fecit. Ex Collectione Arundeliana 1647. A badly damaged portrait study at Windsor Castle with the inscription ‘Lady Mary after Queen’ which, owing to its present condition, I did not regard as an original appears to have been the preliminary drawing for Hollar’s engraved portrait with the sides reversed. Recently it has been acknowledged as authentic by Parker (W.DR. 41) and by H.A. Schmid (Hans Holbein d. J. 113).’ (p. 257)

Evidently this was written over six decades ago, and some of the findings no longer stand. The ‘Windsor’ sketch, concluded by Ganz to be a copy, is currently believed to be an original. The portrait of Edward is now believed to be from the workshop of Holbein, and not by the artist himself. The portrait of 'Mary', may also be by a follower.

The roundel is also discussed by Roy Strong. In Holbein: the Complete Paintings (London: Granada, 1980), Strong includes the portrait and states ‘Called the Princess Mary; Oil and tempera on wood/diam. 37/c.1543. London, Private Collection. Attributed work’ (p. 90). An image of the portrait can also be found in the National Portrait Gallery’s Heinz Archive in the sitter's box for Mary. No further information is provided, aside from the brief mention that it was once exhibited at the Walker Art Gallery (Liverpool).

So, do you think the portrait, possibly by a follower of Holbein, is of Mary and that there is ‘striking similarity’ between the sitter and Prince Edward? Further research would be great, but like many other portraits in private collections, we are unlikely to find out more. Aside from the question of the identity of the sitter, the portrait provides an interesting view of contemporary dress; the detail on the hood is excellent.

Siblings? Both portraits date to c.1543. The portrait of Edward may have been completed for the prince's sixth birthday (12 Oct 1543)

Saturday, 15 January 2011

First post of 2011!

‘Queen Mary Tudor’s Chair’ (c.1554) in Winchester Cathedral. According to a seventeenth-century account, this chair was used by Mary during her marriage ceremony.

I can’t believe it has been two months since I last posted! I promise that this is not due to any sudden lack of interest in Mary, or in Tudor history as a whole. Since my last post I been awarded my MA, worked throughout Christmas, and been busy with PhD applications. I am very glad that the last few months are over with and I can finally get back to updating the Mary bibliography site on a regular basis!

So, what will 2011 bring for us Mary enthusiasts?

This year will see the publication of several ‘Mary-books’. Dr Alexander Samson’s study on her marriage, Mary Tudor and the Habsburg Marriage: England and Spain 1553-1557, is out later this year (no date of publication as yet). There is finally a confirmed date on Susan Doran and Thomas Freeman (eds.), Mary Tudor: Old and New Perspectives (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), mentioned previously on this blog. Both the paperback and the hardback will be released on 25 March. Alice Hunt and Anna Whitelock (eds.), Tudor Queenship: The Reigns of Mary and Elizabeth (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), has already been published in hardback, but at a rather unfriendly price. A preview of the book is available to see here. Will a paperback version be printed? It looks unlikely :(

Jeri McIntosh, whose PhD thesis focused on the pre-accession households of both Mary and Elizabeth (a recommended read!), is currently working on a biography of Mary. It appears to be part of the Queenship and Power series (which Hunt and Whitelock’s Tudor Queenship is attached to). No date has been provided for the biography. There will be a volume on early modern queenship but this is due in 2014.

Are we seeing a new direction in scholarship? In recent years, attention has been paid to the Church under Mary (and we have seen such remarkable works as Eamon Duffy’s Fires of Faith), but it is becoming apparent that there is growing interest in Mary’s role as first crowned queen regnant. The subject of female rule in the early modern period has become a hot topic. Alongside the publications being brought out by the Queenship and Power series, there is also a PhD in the works by a candidate at Liverpool university (Anne Mearns, ‘Early modern queenship: the evolution of gender and power in England, 1553–1714’).

The ‘Religious History of Britain, 1500-1800’ seminar at the IHR has a number of interesting talks planned for this year. Amongst them is a paper given by Anthony Rustell on ‘Evangelical survivalism in Norfolk 1553-8: the careers of Protestant clerics and their patrons in the reign of Mary Tudor’. The talk is planned for 3 May. For more information click here.

Unfortunately there isn’t much else to report. Any news of talks/further literature on Mary’s life and reign would be greatly appreciated.