Tudor Art

The Tudor period in England which lasted from 1485 to 1603 was a period of transition in every way. In terms of art, it marked a transition from medieval to English Renaissance.

During this period, religious artwork became virtually extinct while direct European art trends didn’t exert as great a role on art in England as they previously did.

Consequently, the predominant types of art forms during the Tudor period came to be architecture, portraiture, jewelry, metalwork and tapestries.

Characteristics of Tudor Art

Tudor art was marked by lavish extravagance, as is reflected in Tudor architecture which differed from pre-Tudor architecture in that it emphasised on the use of extensive architectural decorations, multiple chimneys, elaborately designed windows, half-timber work and numerous other embellishing features.

The same trend was reflected in other arts such as the portraiture during the Tudor period in which elaborate iconography was a regular part of the portraits of the nobility. Following England’s break with the Catholic Church during the Tudor period and the subsequent Reformation, religious themes largely became absent from Tudor art and artists frequently experimented with secular themes.

Portrait of Henry VIII by Hans Holbein the Younger

Portrait of Henry VIII by Hans Holbein the Younger

Tudor Portraiture

In the absence of religious buildings and art in the Tudor era, portraiture became one of the most widely practised forms of art. Artists, both from England and from the Continent, were frequently commissioned by the Tudor court as well as by the English nobility to create portraits of them.

The nature of the portraits as made in Tudor England varied greatly. Some of them were made as informal representations of the persons in question while other were highly formal depictions of Tudor monarchs. A related genre of art that flourished in Tudor period was that of miniature portraits and paintings which were frequently commissioned by Tudor monarchs.

Important Facts:

  • Tudor art was recognizable by decorative motifs, extravagant iconography in portraiture, secular themes and lavish embellishments in architecture.
  • Tudor art originated during the period of Tudor dynasty’s rule in England.
  • Tudor art dates from 1485 to 1603 during which England was ruled by Tudor monarchs.
  • Tudor art was influenced by art traditions from the north of British Isles as well as the ideals of Reformation.
  • Tudor art can be seen in modern-day England.

Tudor Tapestries

During the reign of Tudor monarch, Henry VIII, the art of embroidery underwent a significant revival. This was primarily because of Henry’s extraordinary interest in tapestries. During his reign, he had some 2000 tapestries, many of which he commissioned during his lifetime.

The art form underwent decline during the Elizabethan era when portraiture became the more royally-patronised genre of art.

Top five examples of Tudor art:

  1. The Rainbow Portrait which dates back to 1600 and depicts Queen Elizabeth in a portrait with a lot of iconography.
  2. The Manuscript Portrait of Henry VIII which dates back to 1525.
  3. The Story of Abraham which dates back to mid-16th century and is an excellent example of the embroidery during the Tudor era.
  4. The Portrait of Jane Seymour which dates back to 1536 and is another example of Tudor-era portraiture.
  5. The Coram Rege Rolls which dates back to 1554 and are an example of the illuminated manuscripts of the Tudor era.




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