The depiction of Henry's potential brides was integral to the matrimonial politics of an age, and a king, obsessed with appearance. Holbein had to travel extensively to paint eligible girls for Henry's choice. (The alternative proposal - to summon them to Calais for the king to view - was considered undignified.)Here are the king's would-be wives as depicted by Holbein.
The task for an artist noted for his realism was delicate and dangerous: whether to flatter the subject or tell the truth. Thus Christina of Denmark, a candidate for Henry's hand, moves seductively towards the viewer, so delighting Henry, it is said, that he was "making musicians play on their instruments all day long". When sent to Flanders to bring back a picture of Anne of Cleves, Holbein allegedly erred towards flattery. He was lucky that the enraged king subsequently executed his chancellor, Cromwell, for the marriage rather than Holbein for failing to depict Anne as a "Flanders mare" (or so legend has it).
|Anne of Cleves|
|Christina of Denmark|
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