A painting of Henry VIII belonging to Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Victoria Art Gallery has been confirmed as an original Tudor work.
The portrait was recently sent away for essential conservation work and, at the same time, was dated by specialists using dendrochronology (looking at tree rings to date the wood the picture is painted on).
The picture, by an unknown artist, is estimated to have been painted between 1537 and 1557. It was given to the council in the 19th century and, although it has always been recognised as a very good portrait, curators at the gallery have always wondered if it actually does date from Tudor times.
Like many portraits of Henry VIII, it was copied from the Whitehall mural, which was painted in 1537 by Hans Holbein the Younger for Henry VIII’s apartment at Whitehall Palace. The original no longer exists as Whitehall Palace was destroyed by fire in1698.
The dating of the painting was paid for by the Friends of the Victoria Art Gallery. The Chairman, Michael Rowe, said: “The Friends of the Gallery are committed to supporting original research into the gallery collections and were delighted to fund the dendrochronology. We look forward to further research into the origins of this important picture.”
Councillor Paul Myers, cabinet member for Economic and Community Regeneration, said: “This is one of the oldest and best pictures of Henry VIII in the world, and we are very fortunate to have it in the council’s public art collection. The painting will soon be back on display at the Victoria Art Gallery, where visitors will be able to see it for free in the Upper Gallery.”