Wednesday 13 April 2016

A lost portrait of Anne Boleyn? Unlikely

 A picture (actually a Victorian era engraving) found recently on the online auction site EBay, of all places, is now being championed as an 'authentic' lost likeness of Anne Boleyn. Popular Historian Alison Weir for one has opined that the image is indeed of Henry VIII's famous second wife, whose surviving portraiture remains controversial.
Lady Joanna Bergavenny
By An Unknown Artist

 In truth, the image already known as Lady Joanna Bergavenny, invites suspicion as Anne Boleyn. The frontlets, that is the gabled frame of her English hood, extend down almost to her shoulders, belong to about the middle to late 1520's. A comparable portrait is that of Katherine of Aragon as she looked at about this time.
Katherine of Aragon
By an Unknown Artist
The National Portrait Gallery, London

 Logically, Anne Boleyn would have been painted during her reign as Queen (1533-1536). But by this time, frontlets had shortened considerably fashion-wise to align with the chin, as shown in the famous medal of her, cast in 1534.


Anne Boleyn
 By an Unknown Artist
The British Museum

 And when Jane Seymour was Queen (1536-1537), the frontlets would be raised even higher.
Jane Seymour
By Hans Holbein
Kunsthistorisches Museum

 Anne Boleyn, known for her sense of style, would not likely to have worn a hood which would have been considered dowdy by the middle 1530's.

 Quite simply, the portrait is probably of Lady Joanna Bergavenny. Although she is recorded to have died before 1515, and the costume evidence points to the middle to late 1520's, it may be a posthumous commemorative likeness, like the famous 'wedding portrait' of Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon.

UPDATE (April 14, 2016): Claire Ridgway at The Anne Boleyn Files has done an excellent extensive write-up of the portrait. Click here to read it.