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Monday, March 14, 2016

Queens and Sex?--Nope. Hans Holbein Is The Big Draw. (Pun Intended)

I was thinking about the popularity of Henry VIII and his six wives. 
Okay, sure, the story has blood, gore, power, intrigue and manipulative sex, but I'll bet the real reason for our fascination is Hans Holbein. 

Look at these faces. The canny, vicious Tudor faces. They come alive under Holbein's brush. Looking at them, you can understand how every possible rival for the British throne, no matter how old, how young or how mentally disabled they were, were legally or illegally murdered by the Tudors to protect their right to reign. 

There were other artists who could paint the soul--this unnamed artist easily gives us Henry VII's dishonesty, his forked-tonged personality. (The guy began his rule by pre-dating his reign one day, so that anyone who fought for his duly anointed King was automatically a traitor, his lands and goods forfeit to the crown.) 

But portraiture reaches its zenith under Hans Holbein the younger. 

Van Dyke could make a King look Kingly, but we have no sense of the man other than of his snootiness. 

And Velasquez is brilliant when he's painting regular folk, but his royalty--well, you just get the sense that that jaw is really a lot longer and even more awkward. 

But just look at all these Tudor era faces. Yes, they were all nursed rather than using a bottle, which gives them stronger jaws. Yes, they all chewed grain that often contained small rocks--stronger jaws yet. Yes, they lived lives that could end in a heartbeat, far more easily than for most of us in the West today. But just look at how alive they are. 

You can tell by looking at their faces who has power 
and who does not. 
Who can relax 
and who cannot. 
Who is greedy
and who is content. 

Who is tormented. . .

And who seems at peace--But that was before she came to Tudor England!

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