Picturing the Tudors:

Courtiers and Citizens Revealed

This lecture will provide a visual feast of Tudor art, looking at the remarkable works produced at court, and images produced for the landed gentry and citizenry. Portraits painted on a wooden board with oil pigments or as exquisite small-scale miniatures encased in jewels, allowed for the first time, the lifelike image of a person to be accurately captured and circulated at the Tudor court and among their peers and families. These remarkable paintings also reveal the subject’s personality as well as their social class and financial circumstances. From the early 1500s to the end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I in 1603, the interest in portrait painting expanded rapidly. By the late 1590s one commentator complained that nearly every ‘citizen’s wife’ expected her portrait to be displayed in the parlor wearing her finest clothes.

But how did this explosion of interest in the art of portraiture come about? Who painted the portraits, where were they displayed and how many survive today? Tarnya Cooper will look at recent research based on technical analyses of 16th century British paintings and will explore portrait commissions, the status of artists, as well as access to portraiture by a growing group of well-educated citizens with social ambitions. She will also examine how highly skilled Protestant émigré artists from the Netherlands both challenged and stimulated native English portraitists. The talk will also explore the demand for royal portraiture and the factory-like production of portrait copies of the Tudor monarchs: Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I

Thank you to our co-sponsors Historic Royal Palaces and Daughters of the British Empire in the State of New York.

Queen Elizabeth I, Studio of Nicholas Hilliard.

Tarnya Cooper

Tarnya Cooper

Curatorial and Collections Director at the National Trust

Tarnya Cooper is the former Curatorial Director at the National Portrait Gallery where she led the research project Making Art in Tudor Britain. She has published widely on British Tudor and Jacobean visual art and was the lead editor for Painting in Britain 1500-1630 Production, Influences and Patronage published in 2015. Her book Citizen Portrait was published in 2012 by Yale University Press.

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Wednesday, January 23 | 6:15 p.m.


The General Society Library,
20 West 44th Street


$30 members only; $40 member’s guests

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