Major Paintings and Treasures of Tudor Monarchs Brought Together for the First Time at National Portrait Gallery

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Major Paintings and Treasures of Tudor Monarchs Brought Together for the First Time at National Portrait Gallery

Edward VI by Unknown English artist c. 1547 Copyright: National Portrait Gallery, London
Edward VI by Unknown English artist c. 1547
Copyright: National Portrait Gallery, London

A special display for the first time showing rare and important loans alongside nearly all the National Portrait Gallery’s portraits of the Tudor monarchs will open at the National Portrait Gallery, prior to a major exhibition in Paris, it was announced today (10 June 2014).

Highlighting groundbreaking new research undertaken as part of the Gallery’s Making Art in Tudor Britainproject and fully detailed in a major accompanying book, The Real Tudors: Kings and Queens Rediscovered (12 September 2014 – 1 March 2015) will allow visitors to rediscover the Tudor monarchs through the most complete presentation of their portraiture staged to date. This face-to-face encounter will be enhanced by the display of a single prized possession of each monarch, from a rosary to a ring.

The paintings include the Gallery’s oldest portrait, that of Henry VII, which will be displayed with a Book of Hours inscribed by the king to his daughter; no fewer than six portraits of Henry VIII together with his rosary on loan from Chatsworth; portraits of Edward VI and a page from his diary in which he reports his father’s death; five portraits of Mary I combined with her Prayer Book loaned from Westminster Cathedral; and several portraits of Elizabeth I displayed alongside her locket ring, a rare loan from Chequers, the Prime Minister’s country residence. The search for a ‘real’ portrait of Lady Jane Grey in the sixteenth century will also be discussed through the display of a commemorative portrait of Jane that dates from the Elizabethan period.

Following its London run The Real Tudors: Kings and Queens Rediscovered will form the core of a larger exhibition organised in partnership with Réunion des Musées Nationaux – Grand Palais at the Musée du Luxembourg, Paris, in 2015.

Many of the portraits on display have been examined as part of the Gallery’s Making Art in Tudor Britainproject in which the use of scientific analysis has resulted in new discoveries and insights into the dating, technique and production of Tudor portraits. This important research has allowed the Gallery to ask fundamental questions about how, when and why portraits were made, and revealed new information about these familiar faces. A specially commissioned app will allow visitors to access this research in the display space, and to discover the preparatory marks of the artist that lie beneath the surface, which are revealed through x-radiography and infrared reflectography.

The scope of the research, which covers a long historical period, has also allowed the Gallery’s team of curators and conservators to learn more about the practices of painters’ workshops, changes in artistic techniques and the influence of foreign artists in England. Further information on the findings from theMaking Art in Tudor Britain project – including new research on over 70 Tudor and Jacobean portraits – is available online at

Dr Tarnya Cooper, Chief Curator of the National Portrait Gallery, London, and Principal Investigator ofMaking Art in Tudor Britain, says: ‘This special display is the result of research on our sixteenth century collections over the last seven years and will bring together some of the most important portraits of all the Tudor monarchs revealing how paintings were made and changed at later dates. Visitors will encounter multiple lifetime portraits of each monarch providing a fascinating and vivid impression of one of the most dynamic dynasties in history.’

Queen Elizabeth I ('The Ditchley portrait')by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger Copyright: National Portrait Gallery, London
Queen Elizabeth I (‘The Ditchley portrait’)by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger
Copyright: National Portrait Gallery, London

Making Art in Tudor Britain is a five-year project supported by an anonymous benefactor, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, British Academy,  The Leverhulme Trust, The Mercers’ Company, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, The Märit and Hans Rausing Trust, PF Charitable Trust, The John S Cohen Trust, The Leche Trust, The Idlewild Trust and Arts and Humanities Research Council.

In 2013 Bank of America Merrill Lynch awarded a grant through their global Art Conservation Project which enabled the Gallery to undertake essential treatment to three portraits that were analysed as part of the Making Art in Tudor Britain project

Dr Tarnya Cooper has curated at the National Portrait Gallery the exhibitions Elizabeth I & Her People(2013) and Searching for Shakespeare (2006). Her publications include Citizen Portrait – Portrait Painting and the Urban Elite, 1540–1620 (2012) and A Guide to Tudor & Jacobean Portraits (2008)

Dr Charlotte Bolland is Project Curator for Making Art in Tudor Britain at the National Portrait Gallery, London.

For further information, please visit


Rooms 1-3, National Portrait Gallery, London

11 September 2014 – 1 March 2015 Admission Free


Musée du Luxembourg, Paris, 18 March – 19 July 2015

In partnership with the National Portrait Gallery, London, the Réunion des Musées Nationaux – Grand Palais is organising an exhibition celebrating the portraiture of the Tudor monarchs. Les Vrais Tudors will present English Renaissance art to a continental audience within the context of the narrative of sixteenth-century history. This will be informed by the research undertaken as part of the seven year Making Art in Tudor Britain project at the National Portrait Gallery, and a key theme will be the discussion of artistic practice during the period. Uniquely, the National Portrait Gallery will be lending its key portraits of each of the five Tudor monarchs for the exhibition. Les Vrais Tudors will explore the lives of each of the monarchs, both through representations and through objects that belonged to each individual. These important works will help to present English Renaissance culture to a new audience in France. Presenting the exhibition in France also offers the fascinating opportunity to explore the reputation of the Tudor dynasty in nineteenth-century Paris, where the lives of figures such as Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I were portrayed in literature, opera and theatre.


A fully-illustrated National Portrait Gallery publication with over 50 beautifully reproduced portraits from public and private collections and including the findings from recent technical analysis of the works resulting from Making Art in Tudor Britain  is available in paperback priced £15

For further press information please contact: Neil Evans, Press Office, National Portrait Gallery, Tel 020 7312 2452 (not for publication) Email [email protected]

To download press releases and images, please go to:

National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place WC2H 0HE, opening hours Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday: 10am – 6pm (Gallery closure commences at 5.50pm) Late Opening: Thursday, Friday: 10am – 9pm  (Gallery closure commences at 8.50pm) Nearest Underground: Leicester Square/Charing Cross General information: 0207 306 0055  Recorded information: 020 7312 2463



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