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November 3 portraiture in armor

Henry VIII (


Henry VIII – Hans Holbein 1540 (W’pedia)

I was greatly impressed by the pugnacity of the armor of Henry VIII when I first saw it, years ago, at the Metropolitan Museum in New York –the broad, looming shoulders and aggressive face shape. Royal armor tends to be fancy, but this suit is not just for show–it’s for business. I didn’t think of it as a species of portraiture, but in fact it quite resembles the figure in Holbein’s famous portrait: square, chunky, aggressive. So it’s amusing to compare Henry and his armor with that of his contemporary, Ferdinand I. Ferdinand’s portrait is feebler than Henry’s, but presumably there’s truth to it. His armor looks quite like him, which is to say, rather geeky. There’s no question in my mind which of them I would prefer to fight.

Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor – der Altere (W’pedia)