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Panel Painting Henry VI

Object number
Unknown artist
Production date
16th century
Oil Paint
Oil on panel
Height: 320mm
Width: 250mm
height (Of Frame): 430mm
width (Of Frame): 365mm
Burlington House - (on display)
    This oil on oak panel portrait of king Henry VI (r. 1422-61 and 1470-1) sits within a simple moulded profile frame, thought to be contemporary with the portrait. Henry VI is depicted in this posthumous image against a red background, with fictive shadows as if cast by the king's head and by the picture frame. He wears a blue velvet tunic with a lining of white fur and a jeweled and gilded collar consisting of a broad strap to which are attached gilded S-shaped motifs and pairs of pearls and gems, alternately red and blue, set in rectangular mounts. Suspended from the collar is an equal-armed cross with cusped and pointed terminals and a red jewel at its centre. The 'S's recall those of the Lancastrian livery, probably established by Henry's great-grandfather John of Gaunt (1340-99). Little is known of Henry's actual appearance apart from the fact that, according to his confessor, John Blacman, he dressed modestly, without ostentation or regard for fashion.

    Henry VI was the son of Henry V and became king when he was just nine months old. A pious and studious king who spent much time in planning his educational foundations (Eton College in 1440 and King's College Cambridge in 1441), he showed little aptitude or interest in government and suffered periods on mental disturbance which left him incapacitated and unable to rule. These circumstance led to dissatisfaction, dissent, and, eventually, civil war. During the War of the Roses, the king was deposed and captured by the Yorkists before being taken to the Tower of London where he was murdered shortly after in 1471.