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Monday 20 April 2020

Collection Focus – Henry Ye 7th

In the second of our articles exploring an artwork from the Richmond Borough Collection Art, our volunteer Jason examines a portrait of Henry VII by an unknown artist.

Henry Ye 7th, Unknown

Although the title of the piece alone is enough to raise a smile, this beautiful oil painting is a striking artwork from the collection – which obviously depicts King Henry VII (1457 – 1509). The luminosity of the subject and the vibrancy of the green fabric create an engaging, rich image and encourages one to want to explore further. The green in this instance quite possibly represents Ireland as Henry VII was also, controversially, Lord of Ireland.

This portrait seems to represent Henry in later life (more so than most well-known depictions), as seen in the greying hair and lines around the eyes. The protagonist’s eyes seem to convey a sense of sorrow, but there is still a smile lurking in the mouth. To me it seems to be a confident elder statesman reflecting on his life.

Sadly the painting isn’t ascribed to any particular artist and there isn’t a date given, but in terms of the position of Henry’s stance it reminds me of the more famous Tudor paintings of Hans Holbein (the Younger). However, for some reason it also has the feeling of being painted much later (Victorian times?) and I wonder if this is due to the softer brush strokes (particularly towards the lower half) and possibly the way in which the gold is painted and lit compared to Tudor paintings? Potentially the naming of the piece may support this idea too – a nostalgic harking back. It would be good to hear an experts’ thoughts on the date.

Although born in South Wales, Henry in fact coincidentally died at Richmond Palace just along the river from Orleans House.

Would you like to contribute with an article of your own? Have a look at the collection and if you’re inspired, apply to volunteer by completing our application form.