Although overpainted in parts, this portrait of King Henry VIII conceals an early underdrawing, which is visible with the naked eye in near the King's chin and ears; much of the paint layer appears to date to the 16th Century. The direct, en face gaze, feathered and jewelled cap and gold-embroidered, slashed and jewelled doublet follow Holbein's Whitehall type, while lacking the chain of rubies and pearls that many prints and paintings after the type include. Of considerable interest is the cloth support, as it seems to have been painted in an unstretched state, and may be a "painted cloth" portrait of the king produced as a wall-hanging for domestic display. The tradition of such painted cloths portraits is documented, although surviving examples are very rare (see S. Foister, 'Paintings and other works of art in sixteenth-century English inventories', Burlington Magazine, 123, May 1981, 273-82).
We are grateful to Libby Sheldon of the Painting Analysis Unit at University College London for examining the paint layer. Microscopic examination has shown that the fibres of the cloth are very fine, possibly linen or hemp. The paint has been applied directly to the cloth without any ground layer; the paint layer of the background involves an indigo pigment carried by a medium that has driven it into the very interstices of the cloth. To achieve the green of the background, a high-quality yellow ochre has been partly mixed in with the indigo, with no clear layer structure between the two pigments.
This work so intrigued Roger Warner that he purchased it twice. He first bought it in 1958 from 'old Mr [Newstead]', who ran an antiques business in the Market Square of Knaresborough in Yorkshire, and who told Warner that 'He thought it had originally come from a Hall in the Knaresborough area' - probably Grantley Hall, a 17th Century building which had been the site of a sale in 1943. Roger Warner sold a further portrait of Henry VIII to Charles Wade of Snowshill Manor, Gloucestershire, see emiors of a Twentieth Century Antique Dealer, RFS, p.105, fig. 49.