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Thursday, 3 March 2011

Artwork of the day

'The Whitehall Mural', copy after a Hans Holbein original from 1537
The original mural occupied a wall in Whitehall palace and was created by Holbein in order to commemorate the birth of Henry VIII's much awaited son, the future Edward VI. The mural was destroyed in a fire in 1698, however some copies and sketches have survived and we have the chance today to look at the picture that shaped the way we see Henry VIII. The king is depicted looking at the viewer and flanked by three dead figures: his father, Henry VII, his mother Elizabeth of York and his third wife, Jane Seymour, who died a few days after giving birth to the king's heir. While all other figures avoid eye contact with the viewer, Henry VIII looks directly at us, his body and face reminding the Thyssen portrait. The new image of the king is further consolidated. He dominates the picture with his broad body, determined gaze while the emphasis on the size of his genitals also sends a special message. 
Only a limited number of people would see this mural, as it was originally placed in the king's privy chamber. These were nevertheless, the people who were supposed to be most loyal to the king and the ones who had to be absolutely convinced of his prowess and his legitimacy to the throne of England.

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