How Did Henry Viii Influence Art

1082 Words 5 Pages
Art is, and has always been, a reflection of society and time. Its styles alter and develop from era to era based on changes in sociological, religious, and political climates, just to name a few. A prime example of art’s fluxing nature is the image of Henry VIII, which changes greatly after he institutes the Reformation in England. In his early years as the King of England, and for many years prior, portraits of the monarchy in England were done in medieval style. Figures were flat, bodiless, two-dimensional, and quite unintimidating. These characteristics, however, did not match the king’s title once he changed the country’s religious denomination to Protestantism. He declared himself the Supreme Head of the Church of England, giving him …show more content…
It saw humans as independent, rational thinkers (Buck, 11) and criticized the clergy for being corrupt. Henry VIII was interested in humanism and, according to author J. Christopher Warner, he marketed himself as a philosopher-king. He was an exemplary of the Renaissance Prince: he enjoyed arts, sports, and religion (Head, 94).
Holbein was surrounded by humanist influence, as well. He spent a portion of his lifetime in Basel, Switzerland, a center of humanism, where he became close with Erasmus, a famous humanist and Catholic-turned-Protestant. Before the Reformation, Erasmus told his humanist and Catholic friend Thomas More, the Lord Chancellor for Henry VIII, about Holbein, so when the artist went to England in the mid 1520s, More became his patron. It was this connection that would give Holbein the patronage of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife, in 1532 (after More’s resignation) and, then, that of Henry VIII a few years
…show more content…
This pre-Reformation image of the king in his late 20s (Brooke, 22) has little to no dimension, and, with the bodiless medieval style, makes Henry VIII look as though he was painted from the outside in; his shoulders are rounded, and if his clothing were removed, there would be no body underneath. His chain of office, a heavy piece of metal, does not even dent the fabric. Like Richard III in his portrait, Henry VIII looks away from spectators while he fidgets with his rings to symbolize his wealth and, thus power. As an additional symbol of his status, a rose is depicted in gold architectural design in the upper corner to represent the Tudor family name (Conway, 42). Even though other parts of Europe were already veering toward a more Renaissance style by the 1520s, England was still painting portraits that put more power into material things and allotted less of a focus on the

Related Documents