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To commemorate the strength and triumphs of the Tudor dynasty, Henry VIII commissioned from Holbein a wall-painting for Whitehall Palace, that was completed in 1537. The immediate impetus for the commission may have been the birth or the expectation of the birth of Henry's son Edward, later Edward VI, in October 1537. The mural may have been in Henry's Privy Chamber and therefore have had a select, restricted audience rather than being an image of wider propaganda.
The cartoon is executed on several sheets of paper joined together. The figures and faces of the kings are cut-outs pasted on to the backing paper. The cartoon is exactly the same size as the finished painting and was used to transfer Holbein's design to its intended position on the palace wall. To do this the cartoon was pricked along the main outlines of the composition and then fixed in the intended position on the wall. Chalk or charcoal dust was then brushed into the holes made by pricking, thus transferring the outline to the wall. Holbein could then proceed with filling in his design.
ink & watercolour on paper
H 257.8 x W 137.2 cm
accepted in lieu of tax by HM Government and allocated to the National Portrait Gallery, 1957
Drawing & watercolour