After the Reformation had brought social and political upheaval to Germany, creating an unfavorable climate for artists, Holbein moved to England in 1526. He first painted for Sir Thomas More's circle of high servants of the crown and then became painter to the King himself, Henry VIII. As court painter Holbein produced portraits, festival sets and other decorations intended to exalt the King and the Tudor dynasty, and also designs for jewelry and metalwork.

In his portraits Holbein endowed his sitters with a powerful physical presence which was increasingly held in check by the psychological reserve and elegance of surface appropriate to a court setting. This portrait of Henry VIII's only legitimate son and much desired male heir exemplifies these qualities. Edward was born on 12 October 1537 to Henry's third wife, Jane Seymour, and this portrait appears to be the one given to the King on the New Year of 1539. The form of the portrait and the long Latin verse provided by the poet Richard Morison flatter the royal father and emphasize the succession.

Holbein depicted the baby prince as erect and self-possessed, one hand holding a scepter and the other open in a gesture of blessing. His frontal pose before a parapet is a type reserved for royalty or for images of holy figures.


  • Title: Edward VI as a Child
  • Date Created: probably 1538
  • Physical Dimensions: w440 x h568 cm (overall)
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Andrew W. Mellon Collection
  • External Link: National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
  • Medium: oil on panel
  • painter: Hans Holbein the Younger
  • Theme: male, boy
  • School: German
  • Provenance: Gift of the artist on 1 January 1539 to Henry VIII, King of England [1509 1547].[1] Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel and Surrey [1585 1646], Arundel Castle, Sussex, and Arundel House, London, by 1639, and Amsterdam, from 1643;[2] by inheritance to his wife, Alathea Howard [d. 1654], Antwerp and Amsterdam.[3] Probably William III, King of England and Stadholder King of the Netherlands [1650 1702], Het Loo, Apeldoorn, possibly by c. 1700.[4] Ernest Augustus I, Duke of Cumberland and King of Hanover [1771 1851], Royal Castle, Georgengarten, Hanover, by 1844;[5] by descent to his son, George V, King of Hanover [1819 1878]; by descent to his son, Ernest Augustus II, Duke of Cumberland and Crown Prince of Hanover [1845 1923]; (P. & D. Colnaghi & Co., London, by 1925); (M. Knoedler & Co., London and New York, 1925);[6] purchased July 1925 by Andrew W. Mellon, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.; deeded 30 March 1932 to The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh; gift 1937 to NGA. [1] New Year's Gift Roll in the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, Ms. Z. d. 11, dated "First daie of January anno xxx" of the reign of Henry VIII, "By hanse holbyne a table of the pictour of the prince grace." A photocopy is in NGA curatorial files. Regnal year 30 of the reign of Henry VIII ran from 22 April 1538 to 21 April 1539, hence the manuscript dates to 1539; see Christopher R. Cheney, Handbook of Dates for Students of English History (London, 1978), 24. [2] The Earl of Arundel's portrait of Edward VI was copied in miniature by Peter Oliver; the miniature was catalogued by Abraham van der Doort in 1639 as part of the collection of Charles I, King of England, and added to the description are the words, "Coppied by Peter Olliver after Hanc Holbin whereof my Lord of Arrundel hath ye Principall", see Oliver Millar, "Abraham van der Doort's Catalogue of the Collections of Charles I." Walpole Society 37 (1958 1960): 108, no. 22. The Earl of Arundel left England in 1641 and his collection was in Amsterdam in 1643; see Mary L. Cox, "Notes on the Collections formed by Thomas Howard," The Burlington Magazine 19 (1911): 282. Two other images identify what is evidently the Gallery's painting with the Arundel collection, the preparatory drawing and etching by Wenceslaus Hollar; the latter is inscribed: H Holbein pinxit. Wenceslaus Hollar fecit. ex Collectione Arundeliana. An. 1650. Horace Walpole added the handwritten emendation, "There is a print from this by Hollar." to the printed version of Provenance van der Doort's catalogue, George Vertue, A Catalogue and Description of King Charles the First's Capital Collection ... (London, 1757), 39 40, no. 22. [3] Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, died in Padua in 1646, his will of 3 September 1640, left his possessions to his wife; see Charles Howard, Historical Anecdotes of Some of the Howard Family, (London, 1817), 93 96. Alathea Howard died in Amsterdam in 1654; an inventory in the Rijksarchief, Utrecht, of the Arundel collection made in Amersfoort in 1655 lists two portraits of Edward VI by Holbein, see F. H. C. Weijtens, De Arundel Collectie. Commencement de la fin Amersfoort 1655. (Utrecht, 1971), 30, no. 19, "Eduwart de seste, Holben", and 31, no. 49, "Eduwardus den sesten, Holben". These correspond to an inventory in Italian in the Public Record Office, London, Cox, 1911, as per note 2 above, 323. It is assumed that the painting copied by Oliver and Hollar corresponds to one of the works listed. It is not clear what happened next to the collection. At the time of Alathea Howard's death, her only surviving son, William Viscount Stafford [d. 1680], claimed that a nuncupative will entitled him to her personal possessions including the art collection, but this was disputed by his nephew, Henry, who succeeded his father Henry Frederick [d. 1652] as Earl of Arundel and Surrey; see Mary F. S. Hervey, The Life, Correspondence, & Collections of Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel. (Cambridge, 1921), 473, and Weijtens, De Arundel Collectie 1971, 18 24. Weijtens 1971, pl. 14, published a document of 11 October 1662 signed by the painter Herman Saftleven indicating that Lord Stafford's collection was probably sold in Utrecht in that year. [4] S.W.A. Drossaers and Th. H. Lunsingh Scheurleer, Inventarissen van de inboedels in de verblijven an de Oranjes en daarmede gelijk te stellen stukken 1567 1795. 3 vols. (The Hague, 1974 1976), Inventaris van de inboedel van het Huis Het Loo, het Oude Loo en Het Huis Merwell, 1713, 1:679, no. 886, "Een koning Eduard van denselven [i.e. Holbein] met een descriptie van Richard Morosini" and Schilderijen die volgens het zeggen van den kunstbewaerder Du Val door Hare Majt.de coninginne van Groot Brittanniën zijn gereclameert geworden als tot de croon behorende. (1713), 700, no. 10, "Koning Eduart van dito [i.e. Holbein]." In margin, "Staet niet aengeteekent." As observed by Broos in Beatrijs Brenninkmeyer de Rooij,et al., Paintings from England. William III and the Royal Collections. Exh. cat. Koninklijk Kabinet van Schilderijen "Mauritshuis." (The Hague, 1988), 117, Du Val's marginal notation of "Not listed" (Staet niet aengeteekent) may be taken as an indication that the portrait was not on the list of works requested for return to the English Royal collection because it was acquired from a private collection, that of Arundel. Broos, 118, suggested , without verification, that the portrait was in Het Loo by about 1700 and that it hung next to a portrait of Henry VIII by Holbein as indicated in the 1713 inventory, Drossaers and Lunsingh Scheurleer 1974, no. 885, "Een Hendrick de Achtste van Holbeen". The portrait was in Het Loo in 1711 for in that year it was described by Zacharias Conrad von Uffenbach; see Zacharias Conrad von Uffenbach, Merkwürdige Reisen durch Niedersachsen Holland und Engelland. 3 vols. (Ulm, 1753 1754), 2: 376 377, who transcribed the inscription at the bottom of the painting, but believed that it represented Henry VIII as a child. [5] It is not known exactly when and by what means the painting entered the Royal Collection. Broos, in Brenninkmeyer de Rooij et al., 1988, 117 118, suggested that the portrait came to Germany from Het Loo as a result of the marriage in 1734 of William IV, King of the Netherlands, to Anna of Hanover, Duchess of Braunschweig Lüneberg; this is unverified but intriguing. No portrait of Edward VI by Holbein appears in the inventories of 1709, 1754, 1781, and 1803; letter of 16 December 1977 to John Hand from Hans Georg Gmelin in NGA curatorial records. The earliest published mention of the picture is Justus Molthan, Verzeichniss der Bildhauerwerke und Gemälde welche sich in den königlich hannoverschen Schlössern und Gebäuden befinden. (Hanover, 1844), 65, no. 12, and conceivably it thus could have entered the collection sometime after 1803 and before 1844. [6] Nancy C. Little, M. Knoedler & Co., letter of 2 March 1988 to John Hand, in NGA curatorial files, stating that the painting came to Knoedler's from Colnaghi in 1925. A rather sensational, but unverified, account of how the painting passed from the Duke of Cumberland's collection to Colnaghi's to a representative of Knoedler's was given by A. Martin de Wilde in Betty Beale, "Will of Billionaire Deprives U.S. of Art," Buffalo Evening News, 6 June 1960, clipping in NGA curatorial files. See also Das Niedersächsische Landmuseum Hannover: 150 Jahre Museum in Hannover, 100 Jahre Gebäude am Maschpark, Hannover, 2002: 34 35.

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