|This portrait is a typical example of the English ‘corridor portrait’ used to furnish the long gallery of a late Elizabethan or seventeenth century country house. Often painted in sets, they were typically posthumous portraits of Kings and Queens often used to indicate loyalty to the Crown, thus legitimising hereditary or dynastic relations between members of the gentry and the monarchy. Having said this it seems their primary purpose was to provide colourful wall decoration in sometimes dark areas of a large house which visitors might briskly pass through or maybe wait to be seen. Made to a fairly standard size and format of head and shoulders against a dark background such series of portraits sometimes stretched back as far as William the Conqueror, though the images of the Norman and earlier Plantagenet kings were inevitably fictitious, as indeed is the case with this image of Henry.
Sir Roy Strong has pointed out, in his ‘Tudor and Jacobean Portraits’ (1969), that all the known paintings of Henry IV derive not from life but from an engraving of Charles VI of France published in ‘Cronique abrégé des rois de France’ (1555). This publication we know was studied in England as many of the monarchs in Giles Godhed’s set in the 16th century are directly inspired by it.
“It was not until the close of the 16th century that what became generally accepted as the standard portrait type of Henry IV was evolved. A portrait of him is listed both in 1590 and 1601 in the Lumley and Hardwick inventories respectively and the type was first engraved for Thomas Tymme in 1597. This dates the emergence of the Henry IV type pretty closely and surviving examples cannot be dated much before the last decade of the century. As the fashion for these sets grew the gap between Richard II, for whom there was an authentic portrait in Westminster Abbey, and Henry V must have been a particularly desirable one to fill. In the case of Edward III, for example, this was done by adapting the Westminster effigy. Henry’s tomb was at Canterbury and bears no relation whatever to the later printed type; it was clearly too far off to be consulted. As in the case of compilers of the printed sets this was solved by adapting an existing foreign portrait…Charles VI (1380-1422) was roughly right for date and the only significant alterations were the substitution of a red rose for a falcon in his right hand and the addition of a moustache and beard to his face.” (Roy Strong, ‘Tudor and Jacobean Portraits’, HMSO, 1969, p.142-143)
As the first King of England from the Lancaster branch of the Plantagenets through his mother, Henry is depicted holding the Lancastrian red rose. This feature is standard throughout all known versions but many other details are not, with every variant omitting or altering some small aspect, particularly in the costume. Invariably painted by totally different hands, provincial painters copying the known formula, a particular artist cannot be highlighted by name as being responsible for any. Interestingly though, study of these versions through images at the National Portrait Gallery has resulted in a strong similarity of artistic style and design being noted in one other version, ( Lord Chandos, Trafalgar house, Christies 24th November, 1971, lot 11) so much so it is fair to assume it is by the same painter as this present portrait of Henry.
Versions of this type of portrait can be seen in England, at amongst others, National Portrait Gallery (Hornby Castle set), Hardwick Hall (National Trust), Euston Hall (Duke of Grafton) and Longleat (Marquess of Bath).