Art Eyewitness Review:
Portraits of the Tudor Dynasty
A coiled snake, supposedly representing wisdom, appears on one sleeve of this mythological Elizabeth who wields a rainbow in her right hand. A bizarre motif of eyes and ears is stitched on to Her Majesty's gown. Sovereign over land, sea and sky, able to see all and hear all, such is "Glorianna."
A year later, the Virgin Queen was dead.
The last of the Tudors left no direct heir. The Scottish king, James Stuart, did have some Tudor blood in his veins. Equally important, James had a brilliant, handsome and charismatic son, Prince Henry Frederick. The English government swallowed their pride and invited James - and by extension young Prince Henry - to take the crown.
All signs pointed to future success. The legacy of the Tudor dynasty, a strong Protestant England, now loosely united to Scotland, seemed assured, provided Prince Henry succeeded James.
The final work of art, on view in The Tudors: Art and Majesty, is a magnificent portrait of Prince Henry as he draws his sword to deliver the coup d'grace to a wounded stag. It was painted in 1603, soon after his father assumed power as King James I of England.
The future promise, which seemed so certain with this fascinating portrait of a model Renaissance prince, never transpired.
In 1612, Prince Henry fell ill from typhoid fever and died. His brother Charles, whose character was a dangerous mixture of obstinate stubbornness and irresolution, tried and failed to create a Renaissance Arcadia when he was crowned King of England, Scotland and Ireland in 1625. The English Civil War and the Puritan Revolt under Oliver Cromwell followed in due course, with the execution of Charles I in 1649 as the ultimate result.
When Prince Henry perished, the last vestiges of the Tudor dynasty died with him, leaving only a few, rare talismans of their glory to hang on museum walls. The fact that so little remains of the lost world of England during the 1500's, makes The Tudors: Art and Majesty a truly "once in a lifetime" museum experience.
Anne Lloyd, Photo (2022) Gallery view of The Tudors: Art and Majesty exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art