Saturday, July 25, 2009

Question from Tyler - Medal of Anne Boleyn vs. painting of her sister Mary

Im new to the this site, and i wanted to ask a question. Im once did a history report on this peroid and i loved it ever since. I have seen many supposed "authentic" portraits of Anne Boleyn, but i believe one is right in front of us. if you compare the image in her medal struck to honour the birth of a son (that sadly never happend) and of a portait thats called her sister Mary Boleyn, in my opinion the portraits of Anne and NOT Mary. the coin seems to confirm my beliefs, the only differnces are the necklace and maybe the brooch. The dress in the actual portrait also fits the description of Anne's gown she wore to her execution in May and i also believe she wore a Gable Hood to show the People she was still the english Queen after Henry had her marriage anulled by Cranmer on the 17.

So alls i ask is what is your opionion and what not.

Sorry it took me so long.. by the way im 14.


PhD Historian said...

Unfortunately, Tyler, the medal is so badly damaged that the person depicted on it, as well as her clothing, cannot be distinguished well enough to be used reliably for comparison to other portraits. And since costumes were always quite similar among a variety of women, any similarity between the items worn by the woman in the medal and the woman in the painting cannot be used to identify one based on the other. The evidence is just much too weak.

For comparison, imagine trying to identify two young modern women, both of whom are wearing jeans and a white t-shirt, using one good photograph and one badly damaged photograph. Even if they appear similar, lots of girls wear jeans and white t-shirts, and lots of girls have similar hair-dos, and even similar hair color and facial shape. Evidence of a more solid and distinctive type is needed.

Elizabeth M. said...

If Tyler is referring to the portrait of Mary Boleyn at Hever Castle, back in the 18th century, I think, this portrait was originally identified as a portrait of Anne Boleyn. I am not sure when the identification changed. and I have been curious about this myself. It was seemingly more logical for Holbein to paint Anne than Mary, especially since when he worked in England in the late 1520s, Anne was Hanry's love interest and Mary had been discarded. After a few years abroad, Holbein returned to England, and Anne was queen, so there again, it was seemingly not likely he would paint the sister of the queen, but the queen herself. Some contemporary accounts describe Anne as sometimes wearing a gable hood. Is it possible that the portrait is really of Anne, and that somewhere along the line, the identity changed to protect a true likeness of her, since probably many were destroyed after her fall? I just wonder about that portrait.

Elizabeth S. said...

As a response to Elizabeth M, I have thought about the same topic myself and have done some research. I have thought about it and come up with a theory about this. Perhaps, during the Boleyn family's rise to power, Thomas Boleyn had portraits painted of all three of his children, or Anne could have had portraits done of her siblings. But by 1536, all three Boleyn children had fallen out of favor and most portraits of Anne were destroyed. If all three siblings had portraits done, George's would have probably been destroyed too. But Mary was only banished for having married beneath her rank and without permission. She wasn’t considered a traitor and condemned to the scaffold. And so her portrait wouldn’t have needed to been necessarily destroyed.

Please note that I am not a complete expert on this subject, but I have personally come up with possible theories on this.

And in response to PHD historian, he is right in saying that the medal, although it is for sure an image produced during Anne's life, has been damaged over the years. And Anne and Mary are sisters, so of course they will have similar features. Although Mary was called the prettier one, they both came from the same parents and shared the same DNA.

But we don't have an exact date on the portrait in question, nor have I found a reliable source that says it was done by Holbein. Most sites list it as "in style of Holbein" or "after Holbein." Besides, I would like to think that the historians who think it is Mary have determined that with proof.

But this isn’t the only portrait that people debate the sitter of. It’s like with the Catherine Parr portrait people think is Catherine of Aragon because of the attire. The people who list that portrait as Catherine Parr must have a reason as to why they did. And I have read speculation that the portrait could have been post-mortem, by someone who wasn’t an expert in the period, or done in Catherine’s earlier life, say during one of her first two marriages.

Kristian said...

Hi Tyler -
I wanted to add something that may help you a bit with accepting that the portrait is more likely to be Mary and not Anne.

Did you know there is a portrait hanging at Anne's childhood home (Hever Castle) which is very similar to the one you posted? This other portrait is a different woman who looks similar to the woman in the portrait of Mary and is identified as Anne. She is also wearing the clothes and gable hood of which you wrote.

Here's a link:

Again, there's no proof that this is a true likeness and it was probably painted many years after her death.

tudor fanatic said...

Just wanted to say that I think that the picture is probably more likiely to be of Mary than Anne, but that we probably ought to be keeping an open mind with stuff like this. Also, I'd just like to ask a similar question. There is a portrait of Catherine Parr which has often been thought to be Lady Jane Grey. Link below-
I was just wondering if anyone else knew about this picture or has any opinions on who it might be and why the identity of the sitter is so debated. After all, Catherine was a lot older than Lady Jane Grey, and would probably have been dead by the time Lady Jane Grey was old enough to be the sitter. What is all the confusion about? Thanks

PhD Historian said...

The portrait posted on Wikipedia that Tudor Fanatic refers to was identified in the late 1960s by Sir Roy Strong, director of the National Portrait Gallery, as being of Jane Grey. He did so based on personal opinion rather than any solid evidence. Jane was about 6-8 years old in 1543-44.

In the late 1990s, Dr Susan James re-identified the portrait as being of Katherine Parr painted in about 1543-44, around the time she married Henry VIII. Parr would have been about 32 years old at the time. Dr James's identification is relatively conclusive ... there is no longer much "debate" about it. Her conclusion was based on documentary evidence involving matching the jewelry seen in the portrait to a probate inventory of jewels owned by Parr.

Parr was still very much alive during Jane's childhood, and Jane went on to live in the Parr household from about 1545 until Parr's death in 1548.

Gareth Russell said...

I think it's clear from the style that the portrait commonly identified as Mary Boleyn belongs to a much later period than the 1500s, as indeed does the portrait of the swarthy lady in the black gable hood.

In an interesting paper, Roland Hui suggested that the Horenbolte miniature commonly described as being Anne Boleyn (although in the past it has been identified as Jane Seymour too), is more likely to be another member of her immediate or extended family. Having pursued my own research on the miniature, I have come to the conclusion that it is far more likely to be either Anne's sister-in-law, Lady Rochford, or Anne's sister, Mary. Mary's first husband, Sir William Carey, was an early patron of the artist in England and a portrait of Sir William survives, making a companion portrait of Lady Mary equally likely. The broach showing the falcon simply indicates it is a member of the family - meaning that Anne, Jane, Mary, any of Anne's paternal cousins or even her own mother (far less likely) could be the true identity as the sitter.

The portrait to which I refer is: -