Anne Boleyn

Is this really Anne Boleyn – Alison Weir

Posted on: 13/02/2018 with tags: alison weir, anne boleyn, henry viii, Holbein, Six TudorQueens, Wenceslaus Hollar, Tudor

This engraving by Wenceslaus Hollar, dated 1649 (above right), is not – as has long been accepted – of the unlabelled British Museum drawing by Holbein (above, left), which is popularly identified as Anne Boleyn, and has been the subject of much academic debate. But, as I was stating on Facebook that the drawing was probably not Anne, I noticed that the engraving is clearly of a different portrait, and Hollar states beneath that Holbein drew it. No such Holbein is known. The discrepancies are obvious. The sitter is facing a different way, for a start. The jewellery, hood, neckline, bodice and sleeves are different. It was not Hollar who inscribed the drawing ‘Anna Bullen’ sometime after 1650, but probably someone who had seen Hollar’s engraving (or one of its numerous copies) and assumed it was the same portrait; but Hollar did label his engraving ‘Anne Boleyn, Queen of England’. It’s often said that Holbein must have drawn or painted Anne, so it is possible, even likely, that Hollar did copy a lost drawing of her by Holbein. If so, the lady on the right is Anne Boleyn. And, that being so, given the close similarities in the features, the British Museum sketch, also by Holbein, is almost certainly her. There are four known portraits after the Hollar engraving, all called ‘Anne Boleyn’. Three, painted in the nineteenth century, are in private collections; the other is a late-seventeenth-century version in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

ANNE BOLEYN: A KING’S OBSESSION by Alison Weir is out now in paperback

Jo Liddiard

Post author: Jo Liddiard

Jo represents Headline on the H for History team, and likes to spend her Sunday afternoons wandering the gardens of historical buildings. Preferably with ice-cream. Favourite period of history: V hard to pick but probably The Tudors! Favourite historical read: Pat Barker’s Regeneration Trilogy or Lyndsay Faye’s The Gods of Gotham Upcoming book I’m most looking forward to: Antonia Hodgson’s A Death at Fountains Abbey

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  • Avatar Howard Jones says:

    Hello H or J, the portraits of Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard are very similar and are still causing confusion. The lower engraving titled Anne Boleyn with the single drop pearl is probably Boleyn. The Weston Park Earl of Bradford drawing by Holbein is a later drawing by Holbein and I believe it shows Queen Katherine. There were numerous paintings after this drawing with dresses having a studded or jewelled bodice. We also have the Katherine Howard miniature identified by David Starkey by her necklace etc with a jewel studded bodice.
    The Holbein drawing above was incorrectly called Anne and this has greatly helped to create confusion. The NPG denies that the Hollar engraving is Anne but provides no explanation for their descision. I think it is very probable that they are mistaken.