Tuesday, 21 March 2017

A Lost Portrait of Anne Boleyn?

A book I purchased recently, 'The Faith - A History of Christianity' by Brian Moynahan (2002) had reproduced a portrait of a lady supposed to be Anne Boleyn.

from 'Faith: A History of Christianity' (page 402)

 The picture is inscribed 'Anna de Boulen' in the left corner, and shows a young woman in profile from the 16th century. Is this the elusive lost life-portrait of Anne we have long been searching for? Unfortunately, no source was given by the author as to where this portrait was reproduced from.

 As hopeful as we are for an authentic portrait of Anne Boleyn, there are indications to the contrary upon first glance. While the young woman's appearance - her long face and her brown hair - appear to match what we know of Anne, her costume is problematic. The sitter wears a hood of a style belonging to the early 1500's. It is comparable to one worn by Anne of Brittany, Queen of France (1477-1514).

Anne of Brittany, by Jan Mostaert

 Anne Boleyn would have unlikely to have been painted from circa 1515 to the early 1520's as she was in still in her mid to late teens (assuming her birth date was around 1501) and a person of no distinction.

 Of course Anne could have been painted at a young age nonetheless, however a thorough search for this portrait indicated otherwise. The sitter is in fact Isabella of Austria (1501-1526), a sister of the Emperor Charles V. The portrait hangs in the Czartoryskich Museum in Krakow, Poland, and was painted in about 1514/1515.

Isabella of Austria by an Unknown Artist

 The painting in its current state, as shown on the Czartoryskich Museum's web site, does not include the inscription 'Anna de Boulen'. The picture appears to be the same as the one reproduced in the Moynahan book, and it can only be supposed that the inscription, deemed a later addition and an inaccurate one at that, was subsequently removed by the Czartoryskich Museum.

 And thus our search for Anne Boleyn continues...


  1. Hey Roland - you don't have any contact info on your site here, so I'm commenting in hopes that you'll see this. I do the Renaissance English History Podcast, one of the longest running indie history podcasts (since 2009) - I'd love to interview you for the podcast about your book! Please email me if you're interested - hteysko@gmail.com. We can do it via Skype. Check out englandcast.com to see the other interviews I've done, and learn more about me. Thanks!

  2. Hi Heather,

    Thanks for visiting my blog, and for your interest in my book!

    Sure, I'd love to be on your Podcast - sounds fun!



  3. Roland, do u mean yr book on HVIII's wives or have u written others?

  4. Hello Jane,

    I've written 'The Turbulent Crown - The Story of the Tudor Queens'.


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