It’s a new year. Time for a family portrait, don’t you think? After all, a lot can happen in a year and there is no better (or lasting) way to commemorate a year past and a new one beginning than with a portrait of the family.
Not that having such a portrait taken is easy… after all, there are considerations such as availabilities (family members and portraitist), setting, wardrobe and more. But consider the family portraits of old, such as those of the Royals of Great Britain. Back in the mid-1500’s, photography was a couple of centuries away, so the favored medium was oil on canvas. This particular work was done in just that way. Imagine being called upon, as a subject, to pose in up to a hundred “sittings” over the course of a year, perhaps two! Imagine, too, the time and energy it would take to paint a portrait that measures an impressive six feet tall by twelve feet wide!
Now, we all know that a picture is “worth a thousand words,” but take a look at the story being told in this 16th Century portrait of Henry VIII by Hans Holbein the Younger. For starters, it’s obviously a portrait of more than just Henry. This “dynastic portrait” of Henry and family shows the king seated in the center beneath the incredibly ornate British Canopy of State and flanked by wife and son: More specifically, his third wife, Jane Seymour and his young son Prince Edward, who later ruled as Edward VI. On the left (to Henry’s right) is Princess Mary, later Mary I, the king’s daughter by his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. On the right is Princess Elizabeth, later Elizabeth I, his daughter by his second wife, Anne Boleyn. The distance between Henry and Mary, between Henry and Elizabeth, is telling, too; clearly they are not part of his “inner circle.”
The view through the arches is of the Great Garden at Whitehall Palace. Through the archway on the left can be seen part of Whitehall Palace and the Westminster Clockhouse. The archway to the left reveals a hint of Westminster Abbey and a single turret of Henry VIII’s Great Close Tennis Court. The two figures in the archways are members of the Royal Household. While the woman on the left is unknown, the man on the right is known to be the king’s jester, Will Somers.
Quite a story this portrait tells, doesn’t it? Don’t let a year pass without YOUR family’s story being told. Have your family immortalized in a Broyles family portrait soon.
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