Browsing recently through Web Gallery of Art's excellent exhibition of Hans Holbein The Younger, I was fascinated by his portrait of Christina, Princess of Denmark. The portrait conveys clever mind, strong character, and openness.
Accompanied by classical music specially collected by site creators, I spent time with this portrait. I wish to notice convenient image viewer, allowing to easily adjust frame and background color.
Note: for the detailed investigation of the portrait, National Gallery of London provides zoom-able image.
I was tempted to learn more about Christina, and was surprised by richness of events surrounding this portrait.
It was written in 1538, in the last, and major, period of Holbein's work as court painter of Henry VIII of England. Holbein is regarded sometimes as English painter, despite spending only his last years in London (he died there in 1543, aged 45), due to vastness of preserved work opposed to his preceding period in Switzerland (Basel).
Henry VIII's third wife, Jane Seymour, died after giving birth to his only son, and Henry was looking for a new wife (he had 6 wives altogether, some of them sued by him for treason and beheaded). He sent Holbein to Europe to paint candidates for marriage, among them notably Christina. Surprisingly, she is just 16 years old, but already widow for 3 years - and wears black long mourning clothes.
It appears that not just me liked this portrait - but also Henry VIII; he ordered music and great dinner in her honor. However, Christina refused to marry, by saying:
"If I would have two heads - I would give one to the King of England."
Christina lived long, and hopefully happy life, which cannot be said about Henry VIII. Suffering from obesity at his late years (after an incident during horse ride in 1536, he couldn't excersise), he died prematurely aged 55.
Worth mentioning:Christina's descendants stand at the root of the current Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian royal dynasties.
Here a number of links to deepen knowledge of the subject:
- Henry VIII at Wikipedia
- Hans Holbein the Younger at Wikipedia
- A later portrait of Christina
- Christina of Denmark at Wikipedia
- Christina of Denmark - e-book