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English School, 16th Century
English School, 16th Century

Portrait of Katherine of Aragon (1485-1536), Queen of England, half-length, in a black and white dress with a pendant cross, holding a marmoset and a coin

Details
English School, 16th Century
Portrait of Katherine of Aragon (1485-1536), Queen of England, half-length, in a black and white dress with a pendant cross, holding a marmoset and a coin
oil on panel
19 7/8 x 16 5/8 in. (51 x 41.6 cm.)
Provenance
Sir Samuel Wilson, K.C.M.G.; his sale, Phillips, London, 28 February 1912, lot 499, as 'H. Holbein', 'Anne of Cleves' (62 gns.).
Anonymous sale; Bonhams, London, 6 July 2004, lot 258B, as 'English School, c. 1800'.
with Philip Mould Ltd., London.
Literature
BBC History Magazine, April 2009, p. 32.
Exhibited
Richmond, Hampton Court Palace, Henry's Women, 10 April-3 August 2009 (no catalogue).

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Alexis Ashot
Alexis Ashot

Lot Essay

This panel is amongst the earliest extant depictions of Katherine of Aragon, Queen of England. Dendrochronological analysis has suggested an earliest felling date of circa 1531 for the wood of the support, providing a terminus post quem which just falls, by a margin of five years, within the Queen's lifetime. The iconography of the present type, showing the Queen holding a marmoset monkey, is known in just one other documented example, a portrait miniature by Lucas Horenbout limned circa 1525-6, in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensbury. The present picture probably derives from the Horenbout miniature, but differs from it in that the marmoset is shown reaching for the cross on the Queen's breast, rather than for the proferred coin. In addition to the obvious allegory of the choice of spiritual virtues over worldly gain, the gesture has been interepreted as reflecting the circumstances of the later years of the Queen's marriage to King Henry VIII, during which the King sought various means of ending the marriage, including offering her money; her steadfastness was explained by her piety. It has also been suggested that the choice of a marmoset may lie in the word's near anagramatisation of the name of Sir Thomas More, one of the Queen's staunchest supporters.

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