Holbein at the Tudor Court

15 Oct, 2015 750 Painting

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and work of Hans Holbein the Younger (1497-1543) during his two extended stays in England, when he worked at the Tudor Court and became the King’s painter. Holbein created some of the most significant portraits of his age, including an image of Henry VIII, looking straight at the viewer, hands on hips, that has dominated perceptions of him since. The original at Whitehall Palace was said to make visitors tremble at its majesty. Holbein was later sent to Europe to paint the women who might be Henry’s fourth wife; his depiction of Anne of Cleves was enough to encourage Henry to marry her, a decision Henry quickly regretted and for which Thomas Cromwell, her supporter, was executed. His paintings still shape the way we see those in and around the Tudor Court, including Cromwell, Thomas More, the infant Prince Edward (of which there is a detail, above), The Ambassadors and, of course, Henry the Eighth himself.

Play on BBC Sounds website


  • Susan Foister 4 episodes
    Curator of Early Netherlandish, German and British Painting at the National Gallery
  • John Guy 6 episodes
    A fellow of Clare College, University of Cambridge
  • Maria Hayward No other episodes
    Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Southampton

Reading list

  • Images of Tudor Kingship
    Sydney Anglo (Batsford Ltd, 1992) Google Books →
  • A Visual History of Costume: The Sixteenth Century
    Jane Ashelford (Drama Publishing, 1983) Google Books →
  • The Art of Dress: Clothes and Society 1500-1914
    Jane Ashelford (National Trust, 1996) Google Books →
  • Henry VIII Revealed: Holbein's Portrait and its Legacy
    Xanthe Brooke and David Crombie (Paul Holberton Publishing, 2003) Google Books →
  • Holbein and England
    Susan Foister (Yale University Press, 2005) Google Books →
  • Holbein in England
    Susan Foister (with Tim Batchelor) (Tate Britain, 2006) Google Books →
  • Making and Meaning: Holbein's Ambassadors
    Susan Foister, Ashok Roy and Martin Wyld (National Gallery, 1997) Google Books →
  • Silver in Tudor and Early Stuart England
    Philippa Glanville (V & A Publications, 1997) Google Books →
  • Henry VIII: The Quest for Fame
    John Guy (Allen Lane, 2014) Google Books →
  • Dress at the Court of Henry VIII
    Maria Hayward (Maney Publishing, 2007)
  • Rich Apparel: Clothing and the Law in Henry VIII's England
    Maria Hayward (Ashgate, 2009) Google Books →
  • The Tudor Image
    Maurice Howard (Tate Publishing, 1996) Google Books →
  • Images of Rule: Art and Politics in the English Renaissance, 1485-1649
    David Howarth (University of California Press, 1997) Google Books →
  • Renaissance Clothing and the Materials of Memory
    Ann Rosalind Jones and Peter Stallybrass (Cambridge University Press, 2012) Google Books →
  • Tudor Royal Iconography: Literature and Art in an Age of Religious Crisis
    John N. King (Princeton University Press, 1989) Google Books →
  • Henry VIII: Images of a Tudor King
    Christopher Lloyd and Simon Thurley (Phaidon Press Ltd, 1990) Google Books →
  • The Tudor Court
    David Loades (Headstart History Publishing, 1992) Google Books →
  • Tudor and Jacobean Jewellery
    Diana Scarisbrick (Tate Publishing, 1996) Google Books →
  • Henry VIII: A European Court in England
    David Starkey (ed.) (Collins & Brown, 1991) Google Books →
  • The Reign of Henry VIII: Personalities and Politics
    David Starkey (Vintage, 2002) Google Books →
  • Splendour at Court: Renaissance Spectacle and Illusion
    Roy Strong (Littlehampton Book Services Ltd, 1973) Google Books →
  • Whitehall Palace: An Architectural History of the Royal Apartments, 1240-1690
    Simon Thurley (Yale University Press, 1999) Google Books →
  • Tudor and Jacobean Tournaments
    Alan Young (Sheridan House Inc, 1987) Google Books →

Related episodes

Programme ID: b06gw3jj

Episode page: bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06gw3jj

Auto-category: 750.92 (Painting and portraits - Individual painters)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello, Hans Holbein the Younger was born in Bavaria in 1497 and died in London in a plague epidemic in 1543.