Leading Historian Alison Weir believes that a 19th Century engraving which was discovered on Ebay could be the ‘lost’ 16th Century portrait of Anne Boleyn, Queen of England
Actually, what has been discovered is an old reproduction (above) of an apparently lost painting – and the fact that it was found on eBay has given the story added legs (although just to be precise, what was being sold on eBay were modern reproductions – for £70 – of a print found in a print shop near Oxford by a former farmer and Tudor portrait enthusiast Howard Jones).
The original painting was sold to a London Art dealer before being lost in 1842. After Anne Boleyn was beheaded in 1536, pictures of the beguiling Queen were destroyed. A concerted effort to erase her from history was rather thorough, leaving only a battered lead disc (the Moost Happi medal) which is housed in the British Museum in London as a contemporary likeness. There are only two other authenticated ‘portraits’; one in the National Portrait Gallery (NPG), the Nidd Hall Portrait housed within the Bradford Art Gallery.
THE MOOST HAPPI, ANNO 1534
Purchased, 1882 (National Portrait Gallery)
The Nidd Hall housed in the Bradford Art Gallery shows a woman wearing jewellery long thought to be Boleyn’s. But scholars have been divided on the figure’s identity. Some claim the woman is Boleyn’s successor, Jane Seymour, the third wife of King Henry VIII
So, this painting that emerged in an online auction, was somewhat exciting. Looking at the details within the portraiture, you can clearly see:-
The sitter’s lavish necklace bears the initials of Anne Boleyn Regina. This ‘A’ pendant resembles that worn by her daughter, the Elizabeth I . The letter B stands for the Boleyn family. The letter R for Anne Regina’, hence the portrait being a coronation portrait. The fashion is also right for a portrait of the 1530s.
The image is not unknown, for it was engraved at least twice in the 19th Century.
Then, the sitter was thought to be Joanna Fitzalan, Lady Bergavenny. This Lady Bergavenny, however, died some time before 1515, and the fashion would appear to rule her out as the sitter in this portrait (though one never knows in Tudor portraiture, and we cannot exclude the possibility that it shows another member of the family). The picture was once at Strawberry Hill, and we must tempted to assume that if there really was any historical chance this sitter might have been Anne Boleyn, then those old iconographical optimists of the 18th and 19th Centuries would have labelled it such.
This choker is a symbolic representation of Anne’s pride in her Boleyn identity. Even after she became queen, she continued to wear her B-letter choker.
Her ornate French headdress is not simply a stylish piece of accessory; it is in fact an instrument which expresses her unique character. Her flattering French hood was associated with the ideas of sophistication, style and refinement and is embroidered with ‘As’. (As seen on a pendant worn by Elizabeth I, pictured above)
Could this be a clover leaf or cross ?
For centuries, people have considered four–leaf clovers to be magical. The four leaf clover was and is an universally accepted symbol of good luck with its origin ages old. According to legend, Eve carried a four leaf clover from the Garden of Eden to remind her of Paradise (lost). Each of the delicate little four leaves represent FAITH… HOPE… LOVE… And LUCK! It was also a charm to ward off evil spirits and anyone wearing a clover would be able to see the little folk (fae). To find, this symbolism around her headdress is fortunate indeed, the English have a tradition that if you dream of Clover, you’re guaranteed a happy and prosperous marriage.
Historian Alison Weir is of the opinion that this portrait is a Cornonation portrait as Anne is holding either a Gillyflower meant ‘queen of delights’ or a ‘Carnation’ that may derive from ‘Coronation’. However, I believe the ‘Carnation’ is a symbol for ‘betrothal or marriage’ and that and the ‘Clover’ symbolism being worn both on her dress and French hood adds to this conclusion.
- National Portrait Gallery
- British Museum Online
- Anne Boleyn’s Head turns up on Ebay
- Lady Bervagenney Turns into Anne Boleyn