The new ‘Copying Holbein’ exhibition is now on show in the Long Gallery at Montacute House. Featuring portraits from the collections of the National Portrait Gallery and National Trust, the display brings together a selection of surviving copies of portraits by German painter Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/8–1543).
Many of the most prominent figures in Henry VIII’s court had their portrait painted by Holbein. The combination of the renowned sitters and Holbein’s skill as a portraitist meant the images were much prized. As a result, a lively market for copies of the portraits developed in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.
Richard Southwell (c)National Portrait Gallery, London
Drawing on the National Portrait Gallery’s Making Art in Tudor Britain project, students studying for their Masters degrees in the History of Art at the University of Bristol carried out research into the portraits selected for the exhibition. This included interpreting the results of new technical analysis undertaken on a portrait of Jane Seymour, third wife of King Henry VIII. X-ray and infrared investigations into this painting made some fascinating discoveries about its composition, which help us understand how artists went about copying and show how they worked in a variety of ways to achieve the required effects.
Jane Seymour (c) National Portrait Gallery, London
Sonja Power, House and Collections Manager at Montacute House, said: “It’s wonderful to have the Holbein copies here, especially the ones of Thomas Cromwell and Thomas More with their ties to the popular BBC drama ‘Wolf Hall’ which was filmed here last year.
Thomas Cromwell (c)National Portrait Gallery, London
“When putting the display together we asked all sorts of questions of the paintings – how and why they were produced? We were also very eager to know why there has been such interest in collecting work inspired by Holbein from his own time to the present.“
Charlotte Bolland, Collections Curator 16th Century at the National Portrait Gallery, says: “The Gallery’s partnership with the National Trust at Montacute offers the opportunity to see Tudor portraits in a setting similar to that for which they would originally have been commissioned. Working collaboratively on this new exhibition allowed us to learn more about the portraits in both collections and to enhance our understanding of artistic practice in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century.”
‘Copying Holbein’ runs at Montacute House until November 2017. For opening times visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/montacute-house/