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A Passion for Fashion

Artists of the Tudor Court

Artists of the Tudor Court are painters engaged by Tudor Kings and Queens and their courtiers between 1485 and 1603 - from the reign of Henry VII to the death of Elizabeth I. Many artists worked across disciplines, including portrait miniatures, heraldry, jewellery and metalwork, decorative schemes for tournaments and illuminated manuscripts. 

The portrait was the most important form of painting for Tudor artists as demand for artworks from the church had been wiped out by The Reformation and Dissolution of the Monasteries.  


Working Methods 

Typically, artists of the Tudor period would manage a group of assistants or apprentices in a workshop or studio.  Foreign artists were often recruited by the Court, particularly those from the Netherlands, though artists from Spain and Italy were also popular.  

The artist would visit their sitter at their palace to make preparatory drawings, and paintings would be completed fully in the studio.  The artist would work on important areas of the painting such as the face whilst assistants would work on backgrounds and patterned areas.  Assistants would also make copies of paintings to send to other monarchs throughout Europe.

Tudor Royalty often didn't like sitting for their portraits and Hans Holbein was famously only allowed three hours with Henry VIII in which to make preliminary sketches before embarking on the final portrait.  These preliminary drawings were called cartoons.

Attributing paintings to artists is notoriously difficult as many did not sign all of their work.  Over the years many paintings become damaged, badly restored or cut down, removing the inscription or signature.  The practice of making copies from the master's work can also make identification difficult.