Mid 16th Century
Portrait of King Henry IV

English School
Late 16th or Early 17th Century
Portrait of King Henry IV
Oil on oak panel
Image size: 23 x 18 inches
Contemporary style frame


This is a corridor portrait, from a set. Portrait sets of kings and queens and other groups of ‘worthies’ were increasingly found in long galleries and great halls throughout the Tudor period. The display of groups of portraits probably reached the height of their popularity in the 1590s and the first decade of the seventeenth century.

Displayed in a narrative or chronological sequence, royal sets were most often found in the grand homes of the aristocracy and the gentry, but they were also hung in civic buildings and educational establishments.

The portraits were often rapidly and cheaply produced and were based on pre-existing patterns that could be transferred or copied by artists to make multiple versions. Late-Tudor and Jacobean portrait sets were often fixed into panelling in the upper levels of a room to form a decorative frieze beneath the cornice, or hung up high above textile hangings.

The characteristic bold colours and linear style of these paintings reflects their primary function as decorative objects and indicates that many were intended to be viewed from a distance. The growing popularity of portrait sets in the second half of the sixteenth century was due in part to an increased interest in the history of the nation and in historical portraiture. In addition, sets of kings and queens asserted the owner’s allegiance to the crown and their acceptance of the hereditary claim of the reigning monarch.