Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Anne Boleyn (c.1507-36) 

 English School 

Portrait of Anne Boleyn (c.1507-36),  English School
Oil on canvas
18th Century
24 ¾ x 20 ¾ inches; 63 x 53 cm
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Anne Boleyn’s identity is only certainly known to us through a handful of later ‘corridor portraits’, of which this picture is a later, probably late eighteenth century, example. It is most likely a copy of the sixteenth century panel portrait at Losely Park, in Surrey. Most of Anne’s portraits, such as the example in the National Portrait Gallery, London, show her with a ‘B’ on her necklace. However, both the present example and the Loseley picture show a conjoined ‘HA’, for Henry and Anne.

Anne’s surviving portraiture dates from the latter half of the sixteenth century. Most derive from sets of Henry’s six wives, and would have been commissioned as part of a historical narrative. She is therefore invariably shown as something of a wicked witch, the arch manipulator whose sexual allure drove Henry into the break with Rome, a portrayal clearly visible in the black dress, cold eyes and pale skin seen here. Anne’s portraiture conforms to the later, Catholic view of hostile observers such as Nicholas Sanders, who in 1586 wrote, ‘Anne Boleyn was rather tall of stature, with black hair, and an oval face of a sallow complexion, as if troubled with jaundice. She had a projecting tooth under the upper lip, and on her right hand six fingers. There was a large wen under her chin, and therefore to hide its ugliness she wore a high dress covering her throat.
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