Hans Holbein’s half-length portrait of Henry VIII, completed in 1536, is among the most well-known portraits of the monarch. The painting currently resides at Madrid’s Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and depicts Henry standing upright with a plain background behind him. Holbein’s realistic style is apparent in the level of detail and precision present in Henry’s features.
Holbein was one of the 16th century’s most important portrait painters, receiving prestigious commissions across Europe. His reputation earned him work with several prominent historical figures like King Henry VIII and many within his inner circle. Holbein painted numerous depictions of the monarch, his wives, and Thomas Cromwell that are still regarded as definitive representations today.
Henry appears confident and direct in this specific portrait due to his direct posture, stand-out features (which have been captured so precisely by Holbein), and uncluttered background. The portrait provides an accurate representation of what King Henry looked like during that period. It also gives us insight into how influential portraits were during this time frame showcasing why they were commissioned so regularly for identification purposes without photographs.