Anne of Cleves, Hans Holbein, 1539, oil on canvas, Louvre, Paris
There is a great number of portraits from Henry VIII's period. Some were used for propaganda; others served the role photographs play for us today. In the latter category belongs today’s artwork. The portrait of Anne of Cleves, a Dutch princess, was painted by Hans Holbein for a very specific reason. It was to be taken to the king as a picture of the woman who was to become his fourth wife. Henry said yes; Anne came to England and Henry instantly disliked her claiming he would marry her only to satisfy his realm. Anne became queen but the king was never able to see her as his wife suggesting he was not able to perform his marital duties because his consort was so ugly and looked like a ‘mare of Flanders’. Soon after their wedding he was involved in an affair with the teenager Katherine Howard who became wife number 5.
Anne agreed quickly to the annulment and remained in England where the king gave her a number of residences and sufficient money to lead a comfortable and independent life, very few women of her time would ever enjoy. She remained in good terms with Henry and his three children and probably made the best deal than any of Henry’s six wives.
Why Henry disliked Anne so much remains a mystery, as the portrait by Holbein could hardly explain the king’s behaviour. It has been suggested that the painting was not totally true to reality, however this is probably not true as the artist continued to enjoy Henry’s favour.
Picture from: www. bridgemanart.com/