Saturday 2 February 2013

A new portrait of Katherine of Aragon

Novelist and writer, Elena Maria Vidal, links to a very interesting new development in the art history world. Lambeth Palace, the official residence of His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, has just confirmed the re-identification of the portrait shown above.

The portrait, of a richly dressed woman wearing cloth-of-gold sleeves and a gable hood, was identified in the nineteenth century as being a portrait of Henry VIII's sixth and final wife, Queen Katherine Parr. Katherine, who was the first woman to be officially styled as the Queen of Ireland as well as the Queen of England, married the King in July 1543 and remained his wife until his own death in 1547. A devout evangelical, who wrote two works of Protestant theology, Katherine was thirty-one at the time of her marriage and she had already been married twice before. Now it seems as if the portrait is not Katherine Parr, at all, but rather a portrait of Henry VIII's first wife, Katherine of Aragon, whom he married within weeks of coming to the throne in 1509. The pair remained married until the King's attempts to divorce her in the late 1520s set in motion the early English Reformation and the country's break with European Catholicism. 

Tudor portraiture is often a case of musical chairs, with portraits once thought to be Lady Jane Grey now being reidentified as Katherine Parr, one miniature being identified as Mary Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne Boleyn or Katherine of Aragon, an almost-certainly incorrect portrait of "Catherine Howard" that refuses to go away and portraits of multiple minor courtiers and princesses popping up all the time. Dating of the frame and analysis of the lady's costume, however, has allowed this identification to be one of the most scientific and it now seems quite clear that it shows the first Katherine, not the last.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you very much for the link, Gareth. I wish they would stop mislabeling the "Catherine Howard" portrait you referred to. I think the only authentic portrait left is the sketch by Holbein.


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