Walker Art Gallery ‘The Tudors’ is a ‘once in a generation’ exhibition


The Walker Art Gallery has opened its successful summer exhibition, The Tudors: Passion, Power and Politics.

The exhibition will focus on life at the Tudor court, inviting the public to discover the fascinating politics, powerful family ties and unique culture of history’s most famous royals. The Tudors: Passion, Power and Politics features over a hundred objects.

This includes 68 works from the National Portrait Gallery collection, as well as paintings from the Walker Art Gallery collection and a selection of additional items on loan – some of which have rarely been on public display. Kate O’Donoghue, Curator of International Fine Art at National Museums Liverpool, said: “Through this very special partnership with the National Portrait Gallery, we look forward to providing visitors with a unique opportunity to view some of the most famous in the world here at Liverpool.”

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Kate added: “We are also delighted to have secured some exceptional additional loans for the exhibition, including some of the Armada cards and the extraordinary Westminster Tournament Roll. In addition to these items we will be showing the Bristowe Hat – per tradition associated with Henry VIII – and the Bacton Altar Cloth, believed to have been made from the only surviving fragment of one of Elizabeth I’s robes.”

The National Portrait Gallery is currently temporarily closed until 2023 for a major redevelopment project, which has presented this remarkably rare opportunity to share so many important paintings from its collection with other UK galleries. The exhibition features the five Tudor monarchs: Henry VII; Henry VIII; Edward VI; Mary I; and Elizabeth I. Together they represent some of the best-known figures in English history.

Their instantly recognizable portraits – among the most famous in the National Portrait Gallery’s collection – have retained their likeness for 500 years. The dynasty’s rule over 16th-century England, from 1485 to 1603, encompassed the tumultuous years of the Reformation, a literary renaissance, conflict with Scotland, France and Spain, and conquest and colonization in Ireland and America.

Their instantly recognizable portraits are among the most famous in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery.

This major exhibition explores the Tudors from different angles and sheds light on some historically underrepresented aspects of the period, including Black Tudor history and LGBTQ+ history. Portraits on display include Tudor monarchs alongside their advisers and courtiers: Thomas More; Thomas Cromwell; Robert Dudley; William Cecil; and Francis Walsingham.

Some of the works have never been exhibited outside of London, including a portrait of Jane Seymour, after Hans Holbein the Younger, and the highly unusual portrait of Sir Henry Unton. One of the highlights of the Walker exhibition is the Westminster Tournament Roll (College of Arms, London).

Produced in 1511, the Roll celebrates the birth of Henry VIII’s son with Catherine of Aragon, Henry, who unfortunately died at a young age. This extraordinary document – ​​last on public display almost 20 years ago, and never before outside London – gives a glimpse of the grandeur and spectacle of the Tudor court.

Books from the gift shop on Black Tudor history
The exhibition explores the Tudors from different angles, including the history of the Black Tudors

The exhibit also highlights the life of court trumpeter John Blanke. His image, which appears twice on the Westminster Tournament Roll, is the only known and identified portrait of a black figure in Tudor England.

The altar cloth from Bacton (Parish of St Faith, Herefordshire) is also on additional loan. New research supports the theory that it is a garment from the wardrobe of Elizabeth I, making it the only known surviving example of her clothing.

It is believed that the embroidered silk cloth, containing gold and silver threads, was sent to the village of Bacton by the Queen in memory of her resident Blanche Parry, who was Elizabeth’s most faithful servant and her companion of most of her life. It was kept safe as an altar cloth for centuries, before being identified as a rare 16th century garment.

The Bristole Hat (Historic Royal Palaces, London) will also be included. The hat is a very rare example of Tudor fashion or early Stuart fashion. The Bristowe family traces its genealogy to important Tudor courtiers. It is proposed that Nicholas Bristowe (1495-1584) – a prominent member of the family – caught the hat when Henry VIII threw it into the air during the surrender of Boulogne in 1544.

Visitors will also be able to see some of the Armada maps (National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth). Recently saved for the nation, these drawings depict the dramatic conflict between the Spanish Armada and the English fleet off the south coast of England in 1588. Led by Sir Francis Drake, the English fleet defeated the Spanish forces in the one of the most important naval battles. in history.

Tickets are on sale now, with prices starting at £13. For more information and to book tickets, click here. The exhibition is here until August 29, 2022.


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