Anne Boleyn Portraits – Which is the True Face of Anne Boleyn?

Posted By on August 19, 2010

Part of what fascinates me about Anne Boleyn is the mystery that surrounds her. We do not even know, definitively, what she looked like and can only go on contemporary descriptions and portraiture. The problem with portraits of Anne Boleyn is that they are all so different and none are thought to be contemporary, but, instead, are thought to be later copies of earlier works, which were destroyed when Anne fell from power, or to have been painted during Elizabeth I’s reign. We are left asking “what did Anne Boleyn look like?” and which portrait shows the true Anne Boleyn?

If you compare the National Portrait Gallery iconic portrait to the sketches by Holbein and the miniature by Lucas Horenbolte, they look like three very different women.

The 4 Faces of Anne Boleyn

(Click here to see a high resolution copy of this image.)

The first three show a rather plain woman with a double chin and rather unfashionable attire, yet the final portrait shows a stylish and attractive young woman – surely they can’t all be Anne Boleyn!

Argument for Holbein’s Sketch

In their article “An old tradition reasserted: Holbein’s portrait of Queen Anne Boleyn”, John Rowlands and David Starkey argue that the chalk drawing by Hans Holbein, inscribed “Anna Bollein Queen” (see below), is the true face of Anne Boleyn. Rowlands and Starkey state that although this sketch has been rejected in the past by the likes of K T Parker, who argued that “the features show . .. no resemblance whatever with the well authenticated drawing of Anne Boleyn in Lord Bradford’s possession” (see the first image in “The 4 Faces of Anne Boleyn picture), the Holbein drawing could be Anne because:-

The Windsor Castle Holbein drawing

  • It matches some contemporary descriptions of Anne Boleyn, e.g. a French account of Anne’s entry into London on the 31st May 1533 (her coronation) described her as scrofulous (scrofula is s form of tuberculosis affecting the lymph nodes, especially of the neck) and wearing a dress which was fastened high up on the throat to hide this swelling. Starkey and Rowlands note that “in the drawing her double chin is so pronounced as to suggest such a swelling of the throat glands, which is indeed partly hidden by a high neckline.”
  • The sitter’s dress – Rowlands and Starkey note that the sitter is in a state of undress and is just wearing a chemise with a furred nightgown and an undercap. They believe that “only a woman of the very highest rank could have taken such a liberty in court circles” and that it speaks of the “royalty” of the sitter.
  • The inscription “Anna Bollein Queen” – They state that, according to the Lumley Inventory, this inscription was “subscribed” by Sir John Cheke, Edward VI’s tutor and friend of William Butts, Henry VIII’s physician and a man whose patron was Anne Boleyn. Rowlands and Starkey write “Cheke must have known Anne, and most of
    those he lived and worked with at court would have known her too. Of all the identifications he made it seems inconceivable that he could have been mistaken about this one.”
  • Anne Boleyn’s connection with Holbein – Hans Holbein designed montages for Anne Boleyn’s coronation procession in 1533, he designed jewellery in which the King’s and Anne’s initials are combined, and together with Cornelius Heyss (the King’s goldsmith) he created a cradle for the King and Queen in 1533 for the baby that Anne was expecting in the September, the longed for boy who turned out to be a girl. Rowlands and Starkey argue that although Holbein only received full royal recognition after Anne’s fall in 1536, “his appointment as the King’s Painter probably antedates it. And the likely responsibility rests with Anne Boleyn herself.” It is likely therefore that the sketch IS of Anne Boleyn.

Arguments Against Holbein’s Sketch

In his article “A Reassessment of Queen Anne Boleyn’s Portraiture”, Roland Hui argues that “it seems unlikely that Anne with her much commented upon sense of style would have permitted to be depicted as such” and that “to believe that Anne was goitrous (not to mention deformed by a large wart says the writer), one would also have to accept the ridiculous fiction that at her crowning she also wore a dress covered with a sinister motif of tongues pierced with nails ‘to show the treatment which those who spoke against her might expect.’ ” I have to agree with Hui, I cannot believe that a man like Henry VIII would wait 7 years and break with Rome for the woman pictured in that chalk sketch. I know that Anne was not a classic beauty but she was known for her magnetism and her style, which is sadly lacking in that sketch.

In “The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn”, Eric Ives points out that Sir John Cheke, who was said to have identified the sketch as Anne Boleyn, was incorrect in several of his identifications of other portraits, so “the Cheke story is suspect”. Ives also argues against the British museum Holbein sketch and the chalk drawing being Anne Boleyn because the portrait medal of 1534, the only contemporary likeness of Anne Boleyn, shows a long and oval face with high cheekbones, features that just aren’t there in the sketches. Ives concludes that “judged by the medal, Anne sat for neither of the Holbein drawings.” Roland Hui also points out that we know that Anne was dark haired but the first sketch is of a blonde woman.

Roy Strong’s Anne Boleyn

Roy Strong, the eminent art historian, has suggested that the Lucas Horenbolte (Horenboute) miniature of an Unknown Woman c1526/1527 is Anne Boleyn because the appearance of the woman is “perfectly compatible” with the Anne Boleyn seen in the National Portrait Gallery painting. However, Roland Hui argues that “it is difficult to reconcile the two likenesses – the NPG type of Anne with her long face and high cheekbones versus Horenbolte’s lady with her broader features and double chin” and suggests that the sitter may, in fact, be Mary Boleyn. Eric Ives also dismisses Strong’s theory, arguing that the image is unlike that of the Elizabeth I locket ring and that miniatures of that time were usually limited to royal persons and Anne was not royal at this time.

The Horenbolte miniature and the NPG portrait

The Nidd Hall Anne Boleyn

The Nidd Hall Portrait

The Nidd Hall portrait showing a woman similar to Holbein’s Jane Seymour but with an AB brooch has been identified as “The Most Excellent Princesse Anne Boleyn” but Roland Hui argues that her likeness has been derived from Henry VIII’s third wife, Jane Seymour. He notes that a variant of this portrait, an engraving by Renold Elstrack, showed the sitter with a squared jeweled tablet rather than an AB brooch, and that “the facial features found in the engraving and in the Nidd Hall picture are actually more in line with the Whitehall Jane’s than those of the NPG Anne.”

If you hid the AB brooch and showed the portrait to a Tudor history fan and asked them who it was, I’m pretty sure they’d identify it as Jane Seymour, so I have to agree with Hui who concludes that Elstrack based his engraving on a Nidd Hall type panel which had been misidentified as Jane. He also wonders if a demand fro Anne Boleyn images in Elizabeth I’s reign led to images of Jane Seymour, of whom there were many likenesses, being relabelled as Anne.

Eric Ives and the Real Anne Boleyn

In “The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn”, Eriv Ives writes of how there is “a resolution of this pictorial game of ‘find the lady’ ” and that the key to it is the Chequers locket ring which belonged to Elizabeth I. This ring contains two enamel portraits – one of Elizabeth and one of her mother, Anne Boleyn – and Ives writes of how “the face mask is quite clearly that of the sitter in the Hever and National Portrait Gallery paintings.” Ives goes on to say that both the Chequers enamel and the 1534 portrait medal show a woman with a “long oval face, high cheek-bones, strong nose and a decided chin: a face of character, not beauty” and that “there is thus an authenticated sequence for Anne Boleyn, comprising the medal, the Chequers enamel and the Hever/NPG pattern.”

Ives also mentions the miniature attributed to the 17th century miniaturist, John Hoskins, which was said to have been copied “from an ancient original”. Ives concludes that Hoskins had access to an earlier image, probably the same image that the NPG portrait is based on and wonders if the miniature and portrait are actually based on a lost Holbein because in 1590 Lord Lumley owned a full-length portrait of Anne Boleyn and we know that it existed as late as 1773. Whatever the original inspiration for the Hoskins miniature, Ives believes that “it is the best depiction of Anne we are ever likely to have, failing the discovery of new material” and concludes:-

“Portrait medal – Chequers ring – Hever/NPG pattern – Hoskins miniature: the chain is complete. We have the real Anne Boleyn.”

Roland Hui and the NPG Portrait

Hui agrees with Ives about the NPG portrait being a true likeness of Anne Boleyn. He states that although it has often been discounted because it dates back to the late 16th century, during Elizabeth I’s reign, costume evidence goes in its favour. In the portrait, the woman is “fashionably attired unlike the lady of the Windsor drawing [the chalk sketch]” in a black gown with a gold decorated collar and a stylish French hood with pearled billiments. Hui points out that black was one of Anne’s preferred colours for gowns as shown in royal expenses and we know that Anne was fond of the French Hood, rather than the English style Gable Hood. Hui goes on to say that the painting’s correlation to two works by the Flemish artist Lucas Horenbolte and the Hever Castle rose portrait establish “the NPG type as a portrait derived from Anne’s own lifetime”.

Hever and NPG Portraits

The Hever Rose Portrait and Horenbolte

Hui writes that “what authenticates the NPG painting as a true likeness of Anne Boleyn, is a copy of this type at Hever Castle.” If we compare the two portraits there are similarities:-

  • The French Hood is the same
  • The dress has the same colouring and collar
  • The B necklace and gold chain are the same
  • The sitter has the same long face, high cheekbones and long nose

The main difference between the two is the position of the hands which, in the Hever portrait, are placed across the breast with one holding a red rose. Hui writes that this positioning of the sitter is reminiscent of a portrait of an Unknown Woman attributed to Horenbolte and thought to be Margaret Pole, the Countess of Salisbury, where the sitter has her hands at her breast holding a girdle or pomander, and of the Horenbolte miniature of Catherine of Aragon where Catherine is offering a scrap of food to her pet monkey.

Why is this feature of the painting so important?

Because, according to Hui, this custom of placing the hands in this way was only fashionable in Tudor portraiture in the 1520’s and 1530’s. Hui concludes, therefore, that “the NPG/Hever type of Anne was painted from life with the Queen formally posed in the then current fashion” and that “these clues point to Horenbolte as the originator of the NPG type image of Anne Boleyn”, after all, he was in royal service by 1531 and may well have received patronage from the Boleyn family or from William Carey, Anne’s brother-in-law, before that time.

My Anne Boleyn

We all have our favourite Anne Boleyn portraits don’t we? Well, mine is the Hever Castle portrait, the one where Anne is holding the rose. Why? Because I feel that it is the closest match to contemporary and Elizabethan descriptions of Anne:-

“Anne Boleyn was rather tall in stature with black hair and an oval face of sallow complexion.” Nicholas Sander

“Not one of the handsomest women in the world; she is of middling stature, swarthy complexion, long neck, wide mouth, a bosom not much raised and eyes which are black and beautiful.” Francesco Sanuto, Venetian diplomat

“beautiful and with an elegant figure” Lancelot de Carles

While she was not the classic English rose, Anne was an attractive woman who had the likes of Henry Percy, Thomas Wyatt and Henry VIII captivated and I just can’t see them being crazy about the women depicted in the sketches.

Other Anne Boleyn Portraits

Robert Mylne and Olivia Peyton from the Anne Boleyn Facebook page brought two other Anne Boleyn portraits to my attention. The first is a miniature by an unknown artist, although it is inscribed Lucas Cornelli, which dates back to c1600 and which shows Anne Boleyn in her famous B necklace and the same outfit as shown in the NPG and Hever portraits. It is a beautiful miniature.

The second is the Somerley Portrait, a 16th century painting attributed to Luca Penni and sometimes identified as Lady Jane Grey. Olivia and Robert are convinced that this painting is Anne Boleyn because of the sitter’s dark looks and long neck, its resemblance to the Mona Lisa (Anne may well have met Leonardo da Vinci in France and been inspired by his style) and the leopard trim which is “emblematic of English royalty” because the leopard was the heraldic symbol of the English royals and the initial on the sitter’s cuff which could be a B rather than a D. I don’t know if it’s Anne Boleyn but it’s a beautiful portrait. You can see it at

What do you think? Which portrait is the true face of Anne Boleyn in your opinion?


  • “An Old Tradition Reasserted: Holbein’s Portrait of Queen Anne Boleyn”, John Rowlands and David Starkey, The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 125, No. 959 (Feb., 1983), pp. 88+90-92
  • “A Reassessment of Queen Anne Boleyn’s Portraiture”, Roland Hui
  • “The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn”, Eric Ives, 2004
  • Anne Boleyn Facebook Group, run by Robert Mylne and Olivia Peyton

161 thoughts on “Anne Boleyn Portraits – Which is the True Face of Anne Boleyn?”

  1. Jeane Westin says:

    Fascinating piece, Clare. It’s interesting that Anne is portrayed with similar long fingered hands that her daughter Elizabeth was so fond of displaying. I like the Lucas Cornelli miniature. There’s a sly softness there. It’s much easier to think Henry threw over Rome for this woman than the stern, repressed faces in the other licknesses.


  2. Ceri Creffield says:

    Thanks for another thought-provoking article.
    One comment on the second sketch, leaving aside whether it is Anne or not – The coif she is wearing is tied under the chin. If you tie anything under the chin, unless you hold your head bolt upright, this automatically produces a double-chin, whether you normally have one or not. I think with most of those quoted being male, this is one obvious point which they may have missed!

    1. monika jayne says:

      This is a wonderful observation about the coif being tied under the chin. I agree with Ceri, and I think this should be explored further. I have a difficult time seeing the double chinned Anne as a woman that Wyatt, Percy or Henry could have become enamored with.
      In my mind, the portrait that her daughter held, under her coronation ring and I imagine, looked at often when she was alone, the portrait that so many kissed as a gesture of respect, must have been one that she herself imagined, and possibly remembered as the face of her own mother.

      1. Tidus says:

        monika jayne

        “ The portrait that so many kissed as a gesture of respect”
        I can’t help but smile when I think of someone who didn’t
        like Anne, kissing Elizabeth’s ring with Anne’s picture as
        a sign of respect. If they only knew.

    2. Pilar says:

      Love the research on hand positions.

      The Royal Family recently accepted the “nightgown” sketch as Anne. People forget that the Queen’s Privy Chamber was fairly public, so Anne would have been seen daily dressed like this by members of the court. Also, she could well have been pregnant at the time of the portrait–thyroid glands often swell during pregnancy. Contemporary accounts describe a double chin.

      1. Claire says:

        Can I just ask which contemporary accounts you’ve found that say she had a double chin? I’ve never read that.

        1. LaDeeDa says:

          Catholic propagandist Nicholas Sanders wrote in 1586 “…There was a large wen under her chin, and therefore to hide its ugliness she wore a high dress covering her throat…” I think that’s the only reference, and it’s also the infamous “sixth finger” one.

        2. Claire says:

          Yes, Sander is the only one that refers to some type of swelling and he would never have seen Anne and his description is not corroborated by those how had seen her or knew her.

        3. Ben says:

          Hahahaha. You called “Pilar’s” bluff. Doesn’t it annoy you when people pretend to have more knowledge than they really do?

  3. Rebecca says:

    I always wondered if specialists in the field of facial reconstruction could find a way to xray or ultrasound her skull without exhuming her body and build up a face from bone analysis. I’ve seen them do it on many documentaries about ancient people. Then we’d get a very close likeness! But I think the Hever portrait is my favourite.

  4. Belle says:

    My favorite portrait is the NPG one, I also really like the Holbein paintings at Hever with Mary and Anne, although I’m not sure if that is Anne-I can see some similarities between that and the NPG one-also they both seem to show some warmth in her. I really dislike the portrait of Anne with the Tudor Rose, I think she looks evil in that one.
    Another great article! Thanks Claire! 🙂

  5. anne says:

    The Hever Castle Anne, is my definate favouite and it comes closest to the picture I`ve had in my mind of her since I was a little girl!

  6. Heather says:

    Thanks for this interesting article Claire! I’ve always loved the Hever portrait of Anne, and believed it’s probably a true likeness. But, I’ve always been intrigued by the second Holbein sketch pictured in the article. Considering the relaxed attire she wore, and the swelling of her face, I’ve always wondered if she wasn’t pregnant while sitting for Holbein. Just a theory.

    1. Erin says:

      I agree, this looks like it is possibly a sketch of her during her pregnancy. In her iconic portraits, she is dressed accordingly, just like when you go to have a professional portrait done. I know when I was pregnant, I had a puffy face and did not wake up everyday looking like a supermodel. The sketch could easily be her, just not in the dress and glamour we are used to. It also shows a very different angle of her face – and I know I look different (for better or worse) depending on angle. Perhaps this was done on purpose to show the seriousness and humility she wanted to project, carrying the heir to the English throne. I am inclined to believe the NPG and Holbein sketch are both Anne, just one being more private/personal, just like when someone close to you takes a picture for memory’s sake that may not be you at your most beautiful. A personal sketch to remember her pregnancy could have been the same thing as my friend taking a picture of me pregnant, flattering or not 🙂

  7. Rob says:

    Not sure what kind of portraits Hui has been looking at to make the assertion that, the custom of placing the hands in this way was only fashionable in Tudor portraiture in the 1520’s and 1530’s. As Jean says here, Elizabeth was always showing off her hands in portraits. Surely that kind of pose never went ‘out of fashion.’

    I also agree with Ceri that it is easy to create a double chin effect by tilting the head or looking downwards, but would Anne have allowed herself to be shown in this unflattering way – ever? I doubt it.

    Personally I like the Holbein sketch the best because it shows a strong face, with a lot of determination, courage and character. And, for what it’s worth, as a man, I also happen to feel it is the most appealing and attractive of the bunch. I cannot see how it shows blond hair, however. Surely that is the coif underneath ??? which has a gold/brown colour washed in by the artist! See for example:

  8. Claire says:

    I wondered about the hands things too, Robert. I’ve just checked Hui’s article and he gives art historian Roy Strong’s “”The English Renaissance Miniature” as a reference at that point, but, as you and Jeane have said, Elizabeth loved drawing attention to her long fingers in portraits. I also agree with you about that sketch with the double chin, there is no way on earth that Anne would want to be portrayed like that, not even if she was pregnant, she knew the importance of image.
    I can see what you mean about the first sketch, the face is beautiful and I know quite a few men that love that picture, and yes, you could be right about the blonde hair actually being the trim of the hood or the coif, it does look more like fabric than hair.

    1. Jacque says:

      I agree that it is trim rather than blonde hair. Most blondes don’t have such dark eyebrows and there appears to be a bit of dark hair peeping out unless that’s shading.
      Most of those portraits give her sad eyes. I guess depending on when they were done, she could have indeed been sad. But, I have always envisioned her as bright, coquettish, and, while reasonably intelligent, playful. That doesn’t come across in most of these portraits.
      I’ve only recently begun reading more about Anne. Pardon my ignorance but can you recommend some good sources for this Butler connection? I’d like to know more if there is some good reading from reliable sources.

  9. Claire says:

    I agree with you, Jeane, the Cornelli miniature is beautiful and it does look like Elizabeth inherited her long elegant fingers from her mother.

  10. marie ludlam says:

    Sorry if this is a repost. I reloaded several times and still nothing.

    Rebecca, I’m so on the same page you are! It would be so exciting to see Anne’s true face through forensic testing and reconstruction, if there is a skull still present. After seeing the faces of King Tut, Nefertiti, Lincoln, Washington and Jesus, seeing what they would come up with for Anne would be breathtaking. Truly, a step back in time. Guess she isn’t a prominant enough historical figure for it though and some might be unnerved with disturbing her body.

    Anywho, great detective work Claire and the Hever portrait is hands-down, my favorite.

  11. Claire says:

    Hi Marie and Rebecca,
    The only problem with analysing Anne’s skull is that we don’t actually know that the person buried as Anne is Anne. Alison Weir points put that Dr Mouat’s description of the skeleton of Anne Boleyn (found during the Victorian renovation of St Peter ad Vincula) might match Catherine Howard more than Anne. I think you’d have to make rather a mess of St Peter’s to find Anne’s body and I don’t think I’d like the peace of that chapel to suffer in that way.

  12. Lori s. says:

    Henry had his choice of beautiful women. I can’t believe he would choose an ugly woman no matter how captivating. surely the Hever portrait is the most correct of them all. I like to think of Anne as captivatingly unusual even f she didn’t meet the current standards of Tudor beauty.

  13. miladyblue says:

    I have always thought of the NPG portrait as Anne, because of the resemblance to Elizabeth. That mysterious little smile can be seen on Elizabeth’s coronation portrait, as well as those big, beautiful eyes.

    The Nidd Hall portrait looks like someone grabbed a portrait of Jane Seymour and put the AB brooch on it. What an insult to Anne, to use a picture of her rival to portray her!

    1. Tidus says:

      miladyblue, my thoughts exactly.

  14. Collie says:

    I have a strange theory that Anne had a different father and that is why she has the Olive complexion… (long reasoning0
    I Look at the coin and then to the painting “Anna Bolina” Then looking at paintings Of Elizabeth and really think the Anna Bolina picture is closest … I am pretty sure that she was a dark more Italian skin tone from reading descriptions. As well as the feeling that it is possible there might have been a bit of a likeness to the Southern French… Makes you wonder…. She was the only dark hair, skin and eyed Boleyn, in that part of the family excluding her uncle of course.

    1. monika jayne says:

      OMG! I have thought that Anne had a different father than her siblings ever since I read the first book about her when I was nine. I’ve continued to think that. I thought I was the only one! Surely, her father was away so often that Anne’s mother could have had both the time and possibly the inclination? Too bad we can’t have a timeline of just when it could have been possible since we aren’t even positive of the year for Anne’s birth. New food for more research… or, groan, another novel.

      1. julie says:

        if anne had a different father than that would make sense of her 1507 birth..since elizabeth howard/boleyn gave thomas a child every year for the first few years, evem though some died, that would set her birth later on…

  15. Amelia says:

    The NPG is my favorite and the one I consider to be the true face of Anne Boleyn, after years of research and reading the information here. I had never seen or even heard of the Lucas Cornelli miniature, but when I saw it I smiled and thought, “That’s her!” However, the Nidd Hall portrait’s sitter looks a lot like the NPG portrait’s sitter, only older. I see the resemblance in the eyes, nose, and chin.

    1. Tidus says:

      I think the Horenbolte & Nidhall are Jane Seymour.

  16. Anne Barnhill says:

    Wow, I’m so excited to see the two new picture (for me) you introduced at the end of the article! I think that miniature is my favorite because it shows the slight hump in the nose as Elizabeth inherited, yet Anne is still very beautiful and captivating. I agree that she would NEVER allow herself to be sketched in her skivvies and in such an unflattering way–I love the Hever portrait also. I believe she was very alluring, though not the traditional beauty–she had to have been prettier than that silly cap sketch!
    Thanks, Claire, for another GREAT article! I LOVE this site!

  17. Claire says:

    Hi Collie,
    I read somewhere that Anne’s dark looks came from her father whereas Mary’s fair looks came from the Howard side of her family. The dark hair and eyes are said to have come from the Irish Butlers.

  18. Morgan says:

    Like Rob, I have always felt that the Holbein sketch (where it looks like she has blond hair) was the most accurate. The strong features and brows are typical of a dark-haired woman and she looks like she’s going to come alive any minute! I have studied a larger version of this sketch and also agree that the yellow color is most likely a coif rather than her own hair, which is given as dark brown or black in every written contemporary description I’ve read of her. Holbein was a wonderfully talented artist and I sure wish we had a color portrait of her by him!

  19. Francesca says:

    I too have a problem with the posing of the hands being identified with the 1520s and 1530s only. One of the best known portraits of Richard 3rd shows his hands in a similar pose. While the timing of the painting of this famous portrait may be debatable I would be surprised if it was painted in the hey day of the Tudors.

  20. cece tedeschi says:

    I believe that the Lucas Horenbolte miniature is most definitely Jane Seymour…she adopted the phoenix badge which is similar to Anne’s Falcon…Anne would never wear that ugly gabled hood…my fav is the NPG portrait..this is the way I imagine my Anne…with an intriguing little smile on her face. This lady was way ahead of her time and dressed accordingly…I love the way the beautiful fur matches the highlights in her hair…and those eyes are wise beyond her years. and of course, there are the eyes…which are as beautiful as they have been described.

    1. Cate Hamilton says:

      Anne is actually recorded as wearing an English hood in her “Most Happi” medal (the only confirmed contemporary image of her), and at her execution. It was indicative of her Englishness. Also one thing I don’t hear people talking about is that there could be a significant age difference between portraits of her which would explain some differences in appearance. The same person doesn’t look the same at 35, than they did at 21, and Anne had at least three pregnancies, which would take its toll on her appearance (e.g. Catherine of Aragon, who was described as one of the most beautiful women in Europe, and fat and old at different points in her life although she had 7 pregnancies). There is also a record of Henry buying Anne a nightgown consistent with the Holbein sketch.

  21. Marie says:

    Fabulous article ! Well done. Personally I have always accepted the Hever and NGP paintings as being true representations of Anne and I also concur that Anne, of all people, would not have sat for and allowed viewing of the less than flattering chalk Holbein sketch.

  22. gwenne says:

    I’m completely partial to the Hever Castle portrait. In my mind that matches my personal thoughts of Anne. Also the Somerley portrait you linked to Claire, that actually matches really well with the Hever Castle portrait also. Just more realistic and deeper depth to it. I know the author of that essay about the portrait formerly thought to be that of Lady Jane Grey doesn’t believe it to be Anne, but I think if you put the one from Hever and the Somerley side by side, there are many similarities.

  23. Liz says:

    Claire, thanks so much for the info! This is one of the best/most interesting articles I’ve read on the ABF besides the one on her religious views. Great job!!!

  24. Anne says:

    Ives spent a lot of time and thought with his analysis of Anne’s best likenesses. My personal favorites are 1) Holbein’s sketch; 2) the Hever portrait; and 3) Elizabeth’s ring. The Holbein sketch seems like the sitter’s personality comes through, which can be attributed to his genius, if nothing else. She seems intelligent, thoughtful, and poised. The Hever portrait, while a later copy, also holds a certain potency. If it were in better condition, and not so tiny, Elizabeth’s ring portrait would perhaps be the most accurate, and certainly even with its flaws, is something to measure others against. There were still plenty of people around during Elizabeth’s time who personally knew Anne, and her daughter would not have settled for less than the very best likeness possible, by the best miniature artist available, as attested to by those who knew Anne. The ring must have copied an accurate existing portrait which had been hidden away. I believe all these likenesses match each other very well, although the Hever portrait seems somewhat idealized.

  25. janice says:

    well, the last one (of those for on the main page) is probably most likely her. But i love most the first one, the sketch. That is in Ives`book without that gold rendering (or whatever it is, somebody wronte blond hair?) and i was able to stare at that picture for minutes. Its like a photo of incredibly hot woman.

  26. janice says:

    ok, once more me, is it really hair on the first picture? I always thought its some part of the hood.

  27. Bella says:

    It’s not blonde hair in the Holbein sketch, it’s the front part of the hood. If you look very closely you can see the sitters dark hair scraped back at her temples. Which has always made me think this sketch has a possibility of being Anne. That and the dark eyes.

  28. Lauren says:

    I have often wondered about which portraits actually show the real Anne, and so found your article very interesting and informative. I too love the Hever Castle portrait of Anne -I think she looks truly beautiful. My other favourite is the fully painted portrait by Holbein.
    Have you been to see the Anne Boleyn play at the Globe Theatre, anyone? I went two weeks ago and absolutely loved it, and the way they portayed the relationship between Anne and Henry was excellent, in my opinion. xxxxx

  29. Melissa says:

    My random thoughts- @cece-the only contemporary likeness that survives of Anne (the medal shown above) has her in a gable hood, so it’s not like she would *never* wear one. Also, I too don’t understand why Hui thinks the first sketch shows a blond woman, but the Chequers ring’s Anne does look blonde to me. Strawberry blond-ish. Perhaps she was made to appear more like Elizabeth? On a similar note, if the Hever portrait and NPG one are both taken from a contemporary original, why are the eyes so different? The sitter’s dress, face shape, and mouth are all the same but the eyes don’t match up. My only guess is that Anne’s eyes in the NPG portrait are deliberately meant to look like Elizabeth’s.

  30. Carly says:

    My favorite has always been the top left-hand corner drawing.

  31. Brittany says:

    I agree with you Claire. The Hever Castle portrait is definitely my favorite. I think that one and the NPG one are the most recognizable portraits of Anne. When someone says the name “Anne Boleyn” I think people usually picture a woman very similar in appearance to either of those two famous portraits.

  32. Ana says:

    The Howards were all swarthy weren’t they? Norfolk was described as sallow skinned, so it seems likely Anne giot her colouring from her Howard blood.

    And yes – why does that guy think the drawing shows the sitter as blond? That’s not hair showing at the front, but part oif the hood!

  33. Lady Kateryn says:

    I agree with Amelia that the Nidd Hall portrait could be an older version of Anne. The portrait is definitely not based on Jane Seymour as she has blue eyes and the sitter’s eyes here are brown. Also Jane has a receding chin which both Horenbolte and Holbein show which again is not on the Nidd Hall picture. Jane also has a wider face.

    The Horenbolte miniatures are definitely not of Jane – Sir Roy Strong notes that again the sitter’s eyes are brown and not blue. Also the lappets of the gable hood date it to the 1520s and not the 1530s.

    Is it just me or does the lady in the Nidd Hall portrait have a hint of a moustache? ! Perhaps Anne’s darkness was to blame here!

    1. Marjorie❤︎ says:

      apparently, scientists used facial recognition software with the “Moost Happi” medal of Anne and it matched up with the Nidd Hall portrait.
      I think my favorite representations of Anne are the Moost Happi medal, and this other portrait:
      The one in Elizabeth’s ring is a nice one too

  34. lisaannejane says:

    Claire, Thanks for the article. I just can’t make up my mind as to which image comes closest to resembling Anne. I guess I’ll have to go to England and see each one in person!

  35. Eliza says:

    My Anne Boleyn is the one pictured in the Hever Portrait, in thw NPG and of course in Elizabeth’s ring. Elizabeth would have a picture of her mum that would really look like her! In my opinion, the sitter in the NPG portrait is the same of the Hever portrait, just older!

  36. Eliza says:

    And of course Anne had a long oval face, that can be seen in the contemporary portrait medal, too!
    Forgot to mention- really great work, Claire!!! Thank you for this article!! 🙂

  37. Bella says:

    I know the nose on the portrait medal has been badly damaged but does that extend to the mouth too? Because the lips look very similar to the Holbein sketch on the left. Which aren’t too different from the ring. I also really like the Nidd Hall portrait. Not totally convinced it’s Anne, even though the sitters colouring is right. Was it based off a Holbein original, ‘cos it sort of looks like his style, particularly in how the sitter is posed.

  38. carol stevenson says:

    Hello Claire,
    What an excellent job you did researching these portraits! Bravo! I still love the Hever Castle painting the best. I really believe that Anne was a “dark” looking beauty and that is what captivated King Henry. He was surrounded by fair English women and Anne was so different from them. I think that’s why she stood out.

  39. Maria says:

    I completely agree with you Clare. The painting with her holding the rose, is exactly how I pictured Anne Boleyn! That picture is beautiful and I like the last miniature. I have never seen that before and that’s how I imagine Anne too!

  40. Alex says:

    Big thanks to the creator of this website because i had this project for school and i needed the most accurate painting of Anne that i could get and this certainly helped. Thank you again. =)

  41. nicky thomas says:

    If you wanted verification that the NPG and Hever portrait of Anne Boleyn are probably the most accurate portrayals of her then look at the potrait of Elizabeth Knollys

  42. Melissa says:

    I think all but the last in the first montage resemble the same face. The chubbier image in hornebolt’s is probably b/c Anne was younger. The fact that she is wearing a nightgown and appears swollen may be due to her being pregnant at the time, her eyes look dulled(fatigue,stress….HORMONES!) In my opinion there is no doubt that when holbein created a portrait that it was exact; albeit sketches are dramatically different from hid paintings(great example shown in his sketch and painting of Jane Seymour.)
    at first glance the 3 images I mentioned differ, but if u study each feature closely, they are very alike.
    My favorite is the 1st holbein sketch w/ French gable, u can see the fire,determination and perseverance piercing from her eyes!

  43. Julz says:

    Very interesting articdle. I reckon the NPG portrait is her, though there are close similarities to the Hever one. I as interieged about the French/Italian connection. Though I agree with the dark hair, fair skin Irish version too. The ancient Britons were like that. There is no doubt that she as very sexy and alluring. I don’t blame Henry for wanting her.

  44. Loretta says:

    I think than the portrait of Anne in the Royal Collection, acquired by Queen Charlotte came closest to the real Anne. If Anne had a deformity, however small, she would not show her hands. The face is lifelike and seems like the original , while the NPG portrait. shows features are not quite right, slightly askew. Later copies may have added the hands and the rose. Her features were harmonious and arresting. The blonde portrait with the gable hood looks like Jane Seymour. She’s not very attractive at all. The broach she wears looks like the phoenox with upraised wings, facing front. David Starkey writes that the Seymours changed their symbol from a peacock to a phoenix. Jane did rise from Annr’s ashes.
    I have been fascinated by anything Boleyn for 35 years. If thry ever do “re-do” thr vault under St Peter ad Vincula, we may find out. Also, give the poor wretches buried there, at last a decent burial and marker.

  45. A Reformer says:

    Someone should ask an actual artist about these portraits. As an artist myself, I can see the artist’s actual skill at drawing and painting and the differences. The artist who drew Anne in her chemise (image number 2, top right of the 4 images above) is by far a better artist than the one who did the painting #4, bottom right. There is a depth and dimension in the top right rendering as opposed to the bottom right.

    I have never felt that Holbein was a particularly good artist when it came to doing portraits. Drawing the human figure requires a special type of artist. While he may have been good at rendering fashion, lace, hats, jewelry, I think he lacked that special ability to render the human face. If you look at his work, all the faces have a similarity to each other. Ad they all have a “flatness” about them.

    If it were me, I would gather some of the best portrait artists together and have them look at the collective works of Anne Boleyn portraits and see what they say.

  46. A Reformer says:

    Correction to my earlier post –

    Whomever did the rendering (top right) is not the same artist as the one who did the bottom right. That was my actual point. I was in error attributing the lower right portrait to Holbein. The Hever Rose Portrait and the NPG Portrait look like the same artist to me. Neither of them are done by a very good artist. The features are flat with no “realness” about them. (I thought the NPG portrait was attributed to Holbein.) There is no way that the chemise portrait and the NPG portrait were done by the same artist.

  47. Vin Smith says:

    I would pick the Lucas Cornelli miniature… More than just a hint of feminine wiles. More like a reservoir of sensuality that would completely overshadow any hint that other noble ladies in England might be more physically attractive.

  48. Jeannette says:

    Thank you for a most interesting and informative article. I really liked the Hever Castle portrait of Anne, it shows her in a more youthful, softer mood, whilst the NPG portrait shows her as a mature woman. I certainly cant see Henry chasing an ugly woman, she had “that special something” otherwise he wouldnt have hung around for 7 years!!!

  49. collie says:

    It is funny, how all 6 wives in most Holbein portraits have the double chin and a scowl? IT is as if the paintings were changed (there version of photoshoping) everyone was put into what was the Queen like pose and outfit. They all look very similar, or maybe it was just his artistic style. The Nidder hall portrait is for lack of a better word gross. Also, the chalk sketches as well as the miniature have a similar look, however do seem to look more like Mary Boleyn or Mary (sister) Tudor in some cases. I really believe that most of these paintings up until Elizabeth’s reign are just to put the nail in the coffin, make her unattractive, angry and really almost everything she was not.
    The coin was I think the closest, it looks very like Elizabeth, I mean you have to imagine her nose 😉

  50. collie says:

    Oh and on the Nidd hall portrait I swear they added the AB on after the painting was done… It looks added on.

    **Oh I meant Nidd hall on my last comment, I was on my iPad and it was correcting it.

  51. Claire says:

    Thank you so much for all your kind comments on the article, I’m so glad that you enjoyed it. Reformer, these portraits have been analysed by experts and art historians etc. and that’s what my article was based on. It is hard to believe that they’re all meant to be the same woman! The NPG portrait is not attributed to Holbein, but to an “Unknown Artist”, but both sketches are attributed to Holbein.

    I definitely agree with those of you that have commented on the blonde hair actually being part of her hood, that’s definitely what it looks like to me.

    I so wish that the full length portrait of Anne would come to light!

  52. Noelle says:

    The Hever Castle portrait is how I picture Anne. I feel like her confident personality really shines through in it.

  53. TeamAnne says:

    Am I the only one that thinks the medal that is of Anne looks exactly like the Nidd Hall portrait? The hat first and foremost!

    As for which is my favorite, it would be the Hoskins or Hever one. Am I right in placing them in order of being completed as Hever, NPG, Hoskins?

    1. oursixwives says:

      apparently facial software matched the medal (closest image of anne b) to the nidd hall portrait! i think that looks a lot like her, older though

  54. Melanie says:

    I favor the NPG Anne, because her daughter’s features are so similar to this depiction; check out the coronation portrait especially:

    (I’m also deeply fond of the NPG’s adolescent Elizabeth, which I try to visit every time I’m in London.)

    I can understand the importance of the ring portrait as well, the best evidence, in my opinion, that Elizabeth honored her mother’s memory and wanted to keep it close. Poor girl. When one thinks about it, she really had a very strange youth–all the more marvelous that she was able to turn so many possible weaknesses–fear, insecurity, indecisiveness–to her advantage as queen.

  55. Yann says:

    Like Noelle,my vision of Anne is the one from Hever Castle ! She looks really beautiful,delicate and charming in it !

  56. Ingrid says:

    The latest picture , in my opinion is Anne. Basically because she has black hair and eyes.And the oval face as Nicholas Sander descrived

  57. Kara says:

    It’s to bad Henry got rid of a lot of her portraits. It would be cool to get one of those people that can do the face thing on the computer that eventually coes out to what the person would of really looked like. I think it should be done with Anne because the lack of portrait paintings.
    To bad Henry couldn’t of given Annes family all the pictures that were made of her.

  58. Anna says:

    I’ve always been inclined to think the Holbein sketch of the “undressed” lady with the double chin IS a true, from life depiction of Anne Boleyn. To me, she looks like a woman great with child and expected to give birth at any moment. She is too uncomfortable to dress, and since Holbein could easily draw someone and then later add in more appropriate clothing, I think that’s what he did. Especially as there was a real chance she could die in childbirth and she was expected to give birth to the long awaited male heir. Someone probably thought maybe a portrait of the queen might be a good idea. Take away all that “baby fat”, and she could easily morph into the NGA portrait.

  59. Judy says:

    I believe Lucas Cornelli was 16th century, not circa 1600. He was a minor court painter for Henry VIII, painted the famous image of John of Gaunt, and was a contemporary of Holbein:

    “33 A miniature based on the NPG type (The Earl of
    Romney; reproduced in: A.F. POLLARD: Thomas Cranmer
    and the English Reformation 1489-1556, New York
    [1906], facing p.32) bears an inscription that it was
    copied from a picture by Lucas Cornelii (1493/5-1552).
    Cornelli (also Corneley, Cornelisz, or de Kock ) was
    an obscure Flemish painter of oils and watercolours
    who supposedly worked at the English Court. The
    attribution to him as the original artist of the
    Boleyn picture may have been due to a number of
    Henrican portraits at Hampton Court being labeled as
    his. See: CAREL VAN MANDER: Dutch and Flemish
    Painters, Translation from Schilderboeck, New York
    [1936], p. 70 and p. 454, note 1. Cornelli has also
    been confused with the ‘Lucas’ (that is Horenbolte)
    who taught Holbein to paint miniatures. Refer to: J.J.
    FOSTER:Dictionary of Painters of Miniatures
    (1525-1850), London [1926], p.60.”

  60. Conor Byrne says:

    Excellent article. I personally love the Hever portrait of Anne, as I feel it shows how captivating, intriguing and beautiful, to be frank, she was. I think it’s a stunning picture of her, and I do prefer it to the NPG one. Many people have also commented that it is probably closer to Anne’s true colouring, as the NPG one highlights her as having light brown hair.

  61. Beth says:

    Wow, my favourite portrait of Anne is the Hever one too, Claire! My second favourite has always been the NPG portrait. Even before I was old enough to examine the evidence and decide that they probably were the most likely to be her true likeness, I just really liked them.

  62. Appocalyptic Queen says:

    I think I have to agree with you. I have studied all portraits in great depth and each time I do, have arrived at the same conclusion. The Hever portrait I think most resembles the image of Anne contained within the Chequers ring which was owned by Elizabeth. Nowhere are the features of the oval face, strong nose, dark eyes, dark complexion and wide mouth more profound than in these two images and as we know, the chequers ring MUST have been derived from a true likeness to have been accepted in Queen Elizabeth’s Court. Also, I feel both these images strongly correspond to portraits of Elizabeth during adulthood, whose own portraiture also featured a prominently oval face, with a long nose, wide mouth and dark eyes.

  63. BoleynBlue says:

    I love the Hever Castle portrait, Anne looks beautiful and exactly how I imagine she would have looked. I think that the NPG and Hever portraits do look similar and that perhaps the NPG one is an older Anne.

  64. elizabeth says:

    mi favorito es el de Hever, ese acerta mas a sus caracteristicas fisicas…en el de NPG sale algo sombria y friaa y ana era todo menos eso…yo no creo que el primero, ni el de Horenbolte ni el de Hall Nidd sea ana bolena ya que ella usaba la capucha francesa la que esta en forma de media luna.

  65. Tiula says:

    I love the Lucas Cornelli, and not just because it shows a beautiful depiction of Anne’s personality as well as her looks. I think it’s likely that it is one of the most accurate images we have for her; if it can be dated back to c1600 it is likely that Anne’s appearance would have been remembered become common knowledge, it is not that long after her death.

    1. Sara says:

      well mora than 50 years are more than enough I think it that times it was a pretty long tiome ago, but I think he does come out from the other portraits the most. Hever nad NPG

  66. Sara says:

    Well you think the portraits are very different, that not truth, I would like to know which kind of studium have you made, because when somebody with atr school look at it it comes throught what you probably do not see. Lets take one more look on the portraits and now tell me whats the nose like? Doesn´t it looke realy similar? It does the most shape how it goes is in all paintings charakterized the same and now the side portrait – even the face from Haver could from side point of view look exactli like this you must not see the fat kin from the front but from a side could it exactly be like this the nose and the cheeks and their shape(of cheekbones) has the same direction.
    The good observation did made Anne in the lasts comments with maybe is she in that time pregnant and have gained a few pounds, thats sounds realy inteligent observated for me. And the last thing Anne Boleyn schould underwent english sweat fever and that might leave some consequences for some time. And to the argument she would not allow pictures of her like this must be said that what did Holbein or the other artists for king she have a very little to chat in, she must even known that it exist, because it could be put on the wall later on after the king had it somewhere else.

  67. Sara says:

    To the how it looks like because of the worn bonnet on the portraits and the style – It seems to me as Anne Boleyn was the affaire from the king and she did everythig to mary him, because she wanted to be a queen. And the oueens which were adorable and loved by people were these like Katherine of Aragon – surly you have a portrait of her too when you would like to messure yourself with somebody like that what would you do after you get what you wanted you let make a portrait from you whats mostly the same as the beloved queen, and that I think what this unkind power hungry woman did.
    And the similation to the Jane Seymour – You as somebody who is realy interested in this part of history must know that Jane was what Anne was affraid of next mistress for king and he was interested so what you do you faith with the same weapons and doulbels them wear the same and looks better as she does, looke quite she do but gives more fun.
    I could work wouldn´t she be in a right stress because of the problems to get a new baby new successor and wouldn´t she be a realy nasty and rough to very sensible and vain Henry the king and the royals it could went otherways

  68. Nicole says:

    What about this portrait. It shows the long oval face but is darker complected. It is by an unknown artist supposedly 1533

  69. Sage says:

    I’m not looking anything gorgeous in photos, but I always have men chasing after and crazy about. So I rather say, Anne looked glamorous, stylish and gorgeous in person which no sketching nor painting (especially in that age, when drawings look a lot distorted from ill perspective skill and all) could have brought it out.

  70. Joy says:

    One portrait is of a much prettier woman. The eyes are more delicate and slanted, rather more long than round and the lips are fuller. I doubt this is what Anne really looked like as the woman in this portrait would certainly be considered beautiful. So I am inclined to believe that the less beautiful woman is closer to how AB really looked. And its probably painted to flatter, so I think AB was one of those plain woman who have more natural allure than many pretty women

  71. jennifer says:

    Personally, I think the Somerley Portrait is the real face of Anne Boleyn, if you compare the Hever and NPG portraits to that of the Somerley one they match perfectly. Dark hair, skin and eyes, with a long neck and bosom not much raised with the long oval face and the key to the Somerley Portrait besides the physical similarities is she holding a book and we all know how educated Anne was and her fondness of reading was, and furthermore if you put young Elizabeth side by side to the Somerley Portrait they are strikingly similar. Just my opinion,

    1. jennifer says:

      One last thing the Somerley Portrait also matches the locket ring perfectly.

  72. Renato Drummond says:

    Hello, Claire.
    First I would like to point out how much your site has been most useful for my research. I am Brazilian and college history course. Recently I noted an article that casts doubt on the validity of the portrait of Anne Boleyn at NPG. They say it might be Mary Tudor, especially if compared with the picture in which she appears with Charles Brandon, attributed to Jan Mabuse. I wonder about your point of view on the comparison. Thank you.

    ps. sorry for my English.

  73. Della says:

    Hi I am fascinated with the somerley portrait for 35 years I have read extensively about the Tudors especially about Anne and Elizabeth.i have always felt that the portrait at never was probably an authentic painting.
    That was until I saw recently the somerley portrait! She looks so confident,she has a certain loose limbed easiness.that lady knows who she is and has a well diguised haughty look in her pretty eyes.the commentator says up close she has light perhaps blue eyes,but
    They look dark to me.
    Is this Anne ?I have always wondered what she was really like and of all the portraits that are out there this is the only one I hav ever seen that would fit her personality and easy seems to shout that this is someone special whoever she is!
    Also she has a dimple in her chin did Anne have one? I’m sure there’s a portrait that shows her with a dimple but I’m confused now!
    Look forward to any info.

  74. Keeley says:

    I think the only true way we can picture anne boleyn is through her daughter Elizabeth 1st. She does not resemble much of her father beside the red hair, but she could look like her grandmothers on her father side because of genes. All the description of annes have more favoured elizabeth in potraits. Potraits are amazingly done but I dont think they represent the people well enough.

  75. RxPhan says:

    I also read somewhere that the Holbein protrait was made either during her pregnancy or right after. If that is the case, there could be a heaviness in her features that is not normally there. In the Holbein protrait, the woman is also looking down-even the slenderest person looking down has a hint of a double chin.
    I believe the Holbein is just an informal sketch of a Anne in her dressing gown,during or just after her first pregnancy,and not meant to be seen publicly.She looks like she’s tired, disappointed, and rethinking her future.

    1. nanci says:

      I was thinking the same thing – that this could have been perhaps a preliminary sketch while she was pregnant, maybe around the time of her coronation, for a future portrait. She certainly wasn’t hiding her pregnancy by then, so this could well be the case.

  76. Morgan Ravenwood says:

    While the Hever castle portrait is my personal fave, I also think there is some truth in the Holbein sketch that is top left in this article. I have always looked at it with the feeling that she was going to move and speak at any moment. Plus the facial expression is one of supreme confidence and serenity. IMO Holbein was far and away the best of the Tudor era artists as he had the rare talent of bringing his subjects to life.

  77. Myrna says:

    Great article!

    I think that the NPG portrait is actually a “reworking” of the Hever portrait — kind of like a re-touching of the original, probably to make her resemblance to Elizabeth I even more intense.

    I think the Hever portrait is a true likeness of Anne — however, I can see how the Holbein portrait could be of Anne. Wasn’t Holbein known to do more “intimate” and “realistic” sketches of his subjects? This could have been a “bad hair day” for Anne — hence the reasoning it never saw the light of day as a completed portrait. 🙂

  78. WilesWales says:

    I will go for what I see on two editions of Eric Ives’ books on Anne Boleyn:

    The Eric Ives’ “Anne Boleyn,” 1968 edtiion shows the portrait of Anne on the teel (sp?) color cover as in the one on the bottom left hand corner in the part of this article, Erice Ives and the Real Anne Boleyn.

    In the Eric Ives expanded edition: ‘ “The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, ” circa 2005, one the black color cover has the Hever Rose Painting on the cover with the red Rose. I believe this is the true portrait of Anne for a few reasons. First I have read on one of the articles on this site about her coronation, that her long black hair must have been quite the site over the white gown she wore, and also that this second book, that I purchased as this is the one that Claire and I both agree is the Eric Ives’ bible on Anne, and that after nine years, and knowing Eric Ives now for his attention to detail and accuracy, must be the right portrait, and I have both books sitting side by side right beside me.

    So as described in an article(s) on this site, and comparing the portraits on the covers of two Eric Ives’ editions of the same work (the lastest longer and more revised, I have to make it the Hever Rose portrait.

    That is just an opinion with the article of Anne’s Coronation on my “favorites,” and the evidence of the differenc in nine years on the covers of “the” authority on Anne, then that is just my lil’ ole conclusion. Thank you! WilesWales

    1. Baraoness Von Reis says:

      WilesWales, THX so much,either or I am looking forward to both of the books,thank you again Wiles. Regards Baroness Von Reis

  79. Joe Nuttgens says:

    There is a lot to suggest that Holbein’s portrait of ‘Anna Bollein Queen’ is not of her. In my old book (William Heinmann Ltd.), the drawing is opposite a painting of Jane Seymour and one could argue (and perhaps the author was implying) that there are enough similarities to suggest that it is really of her. She is portrayed as a plain woman. Plain Jane possibly!. But do not underestimate Holbein’s art, he who revealed the true person, an artist who, if he chose to, could see beyond beauty, style and grandeur to the humble unadorned person. It seems quite possible to me (and perhaps to Hilary Mantel who raised the issue in today’s Guardian) that the magic and power of Anne Boleyn was in her ability to transform herself (chrysalis-like) into a ‘beautiful’ woman.

    1. Claire says:

      The Royal Collection have recently catalogued the Holbein drawing as Anne Boleyn – see Bendor Grosvenor’s article Anne Boleyn Regains Her Head – but I’m not convinced. I agree with you about Holbein, he was an amazing artist.

  80. Darian says:

    Well I would believe the Holbein sketches to be the truest representation, if not completely authentic(as in she sat for them) because Holbein worked for Anne’s circle, including Chalices, Jewelry, and Paintings. So even if Holbein had sketched them after Anne’s lifetime, he certainly knew Anne well and would have been successful in reproducing her likeness from memory. Plus, if you look at the woman’s features in both drawings, they are extremely similar, save for the puffier face, neck and double chin in the one. But pregnancy can make a woman put on weight. So I believe that not only are the women in the two Holbein sketches the same person, but that she was Anne Boleyn.

  81. Timothy Morgan-Owen says:

    The Horenbolte miniature of which there are two was reidentified for the 1987 Henry V111 exhibition at Greenwich. The identification being that the broach on the bodice is a falcon. I have shown both that miniature and the Holbein drawing now in the British Museum to various portrait painters and sculptors and we all agree that it is the same woman. The waxwork of Anne Boleyn in Madame Tussaud’s derives from the Holbein drawin., The waxworks of Jane Seymoour, Anne of Cleves and Kathryn Parr taken from their portraits are the portarits come to life. What is interesting is that although Tussauds used the Holbien drawing the waxwork actually is not dissimilar to the painting in the National Portrait Gallery. I think that Madame Tussauds have probably come nearest to what Anne Boleyn looked like. As for the Holbein drawing in the Royal Collection, the woman doesn’t have a double chin, it is a strap from her bonnet, I don’t think the people looking at the drawing have a clue about costume.

  82. Alana Wills says:

    One point about the Windsor Castle Holbein profile sketch: if this is Anne, perhaps it was drawn when she was pregnant – newly Queen but carrying more weight hence with a fuller face. This woman still has the high cheekbones and longish nose. I believe it could well be her.
    The first sketch, if you look carefully at the drawing, the “blonde hair” is actually the front of the hood – at the widow’s peak and at the sides of the head you can see a hint of black hair.
    For me (and we will never really know), these two contemporary sketches are the real Anne, at different times of her life.

  83. Reena says:

    Has anyone noticed in the Hever portrait, Anne’s hair is in the french style- it’s curled. Look carefully and you can see light against the curls. I believe, of all the portraits, it’s that one which truly shows Anne.

  84. Lauren says:

    Perhaps I’m odd, but I could see them all being her at different times of her life. The noses and eyes are all similar. The main differences are the face shapes, and that could be explained by the effects of age and pregnancies.

  85. R.Hugh Verrall says:

    As an art historian and not a member of any particular Anne fan club, I think I have an unbiased view on this. Lucas Cornelisz de Kock (Lucas Cornelli), a Dutch miniaturist from Leiden, is the painter who helps solve the vexed question of Anne Boleyn’s appearance. We can accept that the contemporary medal of 1534, the miniature in Elizabeth I’s locket ring, and the National Portrait Gallery/Hever Castle portraits all establish a single physical type and agree with each other, which therefore rules out numerous candidates. The problem is that the medal is badly damaged, the locket ring too small to convey a likeness, and the NPG portrait so wretched a work as to be valueless. The Hever picture is a more attractive image, but both portraits are much later works by copyists (probably English) who adhered slavishly to formulas and were incapable of producing a convincing three-dimensional likeness, much less suggesting the sitter’s personality. The placing of the hands at the waist in the Hever picture, a feature of Flemish portraiture in the early 16th century, indicates that the original on which the NPG/Hever portraits is based was Flemish, possibly a painting by Lucas Hornebolte. So whilst we have a physical type which accords with contemporary descriptions (long,oval face, strong nose and chin), we do not have an original work or a copy which conveys a believable likeness and personality. However, the miniature of Anne Boleyn with an inscription identifying the artist as Lucas Cornelli conforms entirely to this physical type, and has the black hair and eyes described by contemporaries as well as the costume of the NPG/Hever portraits. The painting is said to be a copy, but Cornelli was active in England as King’s painter c.1527 to 1532, and it is not known when he left England. The original portrait was therefore done from life. If a copy, it is a work of artistic merit in itself and the only copy of a Boleyn portrait which is faithfully executed in the Renaissance manner, conveying a thoughtful yet vivacious personality. It has much more immediacy than the portrait copied at least a hundred years later from an ‘ancient’ original and doubtfully attributed to John Hoskins – who was a far more gifted portrait painter than is evidenced by that rather vacant image. To my mind, the Cornelli miniature is the most reliable portrait we have of Anne Boleyn.

    1. Karen B says:

      Thankyou for drawing my attention to the Lucas Cornelli miniature, a totally believable image of Anne Boleyn. This beautiful picture is her, in my opinion

  86. H. Elizabeth says:

    Personally I feel that the Nidd Hall portrait is Anne. It doesn’t really remind me of Jane. The portrait kind of reminds me of an older version of the NPG portrait, the eyes , nose and mouth look the same not to mention that there is an AB charm on her dress.

  87. Zoe says:

    I at first believed the NPG one to be Anne, but then I saw the Somerly Portrait on the Tudors website, and it just stood out to me. It struck me in the heart. However, if you compare the Somerly with the NPG, you can tell the two women portrayed are closely related. Maybe it’s Jane Boleyn? Or her sister Mary, or even her mother? The Somerly woman has red-brown-goldish hair,while Anne had dark hair. That rules anne out, so I’m willing to believe the NPG is the true resemblance of Anne.

  88. Zoe says:

    Im sorry, I just compared the four combined portraits of anne from here with the Somerly portrait, and it’s the same woman. The Somerly is Anne if the other four are her also. 🙂

  89. Sheila says:

    Regarding the Holbein drawing in the “nightdress” there is nothing to suggest that the sitter knew that she was being drawn. Holbein might well have sketched a sitter who could be AB just for the love of his craft. His work on the other hand was all about portraying sitters as they wished to be seen. This sketch has a quality about it of drawings of defendants in court; not at their best and unaware of being sketched.
    The gable hood sketch has the most life about it of all the portraits. It might have been a sketch in preparation for a painting.
    We know from contemporary accounts that AB was not especially beautiful but that her personality and charisma made her appear beautiful. Perhaps Holbein wanted to create a sketch of what he culd see rather than what was projected.
    I can see a resemblance between both sketches; we can all have different appearances depending upon mood, health, etc. I also see a resemblance in the nose and eyes between the NPG portrait and the gable hood sketch. The bit I find difficult to reconcile in the NPG portrait as a true likeness is the mouth which is small. The contemporary description has AB with a wide mouth.
    I have not read anywhere of a Holbein painting of AB being destroyed, but it is unlikely that the new court painter was not commissioned to portray the second most important person at court. We can only guess that there was such destruction, and mourn the loss of a work of art as well as the difinitive likeness.

  90. Bruceton I says:

    I think the issue here is that we are all looking at these portraits with a 21st Century view on attractiveness. Just because you don’t think that a woman depicted in the Holbein sketch shows a woman who would cause Henry VIII and others at court to be so enraptured by her, does not mean it isn’t her. The Tudors lived in a era of disease, no make up or hair styling products and poor personal hygiene due to a fear of water – what they deemed attractive is vastly different from what we do today. You are letting opinion get in the way of the facts. Hence why you believe that the Hever castle portrait is the correct one – this is the one you deem her to look the most attractive in and it closely matches this romanticised view of Anne Boleyn. And I think many people would say that she looks the best in this image. Indeed, I think that she is the most attractive in this picture, but I believe after reading the evidence for the Holbein sketch that this is indeed the correct one.

    One thing to bear in mind is that The Tudors were very proud individuals and not averse to being depicted in the best possible light. We only have to look at the infamous portrait of Henry VIII to see this. This has been proved to be inaccurate when compared to his armour, for example.

    It is therefore completely plausible that the NPG portrait and Hever Rose were simply favourable, ‘photoshopped’ images of her and how she really looked on a day-to-day basis is accurately depicted in the Holbein sketch. I would be very interested to people’s thoughts on this.

  91. DiLited says:

    Have you checked out the portraits by Mark Satchwell. He has done a couple showing Anne Boleyn as well as portraits of George, his wife Jane, Mary Boleyn, and Henry.

    1. Claire says:

      Yes, I have, he’s very talented.

      1. Sue Ellen Anderso says:

        I couldn’t find any historical portraits on Mark’s site although I followed the above link. In fact it said ‘no art found here.’

        1. Claire says:

          Hi Sue Ellen,
          That link was from over two years ago and websites do change a lot in that time, plus I think he’s sold that painting. He’s got one of Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn from Wolf Hall at and he’s got some other Wolf Hall ones at

    2. Venessa says:

      This is how I view Anne in my head. Thanks for posting. This is a beautiful pic.

  92. HappyGirl says:

    Zapanec writes on its website that the NPG portrait of Anne Boleyn is an invention of the Elizabethan propaganda. She also believes that this portrait was copied from portert Elizabeth I. Zupanec writes that Anna never wore a necklace with the letter B, because the necklace is not suitable for the era in which she lived. Zupanec also writes that portet aims to show Anne as a proud and intelligent Protestant. What do you think?
    Sorry for my bad English 🙂 greetings.

  93. Zuvele Leschen says:

    I’m finding the site a great source of information about Anne Boleyn, and thought readers of this thread would be interested in

    which links to a very interesting portrait of Anne Boleyn, said to be painted from the Holbein original.

    I don’t think I’ve seen this pciture anywhere else.

  94. Zuvele Leschen says:

    And another copy of the same portrait – this one is remarkably similar to one of Holbein’s sketches –

  95. Zuvele Leschen says:

    Correction – they are different portraits, both copied from Holbein originals. Interestingly, I have found descriptions of both in a work on the Reformatin translated from the French.

  96. Venessa says:

    The Hever and Lucas Cornelli are my favorites.

  97. Kate says:

    Whenever I think of Anne the hever portrait comes into mind. But that doesn’t mean it is the most accurate. They all resemble her in some way. Except The horenbolte miniature. To me it looks so much like Mary.

    1. Claire says:

      We don’t actually know what Mary looked like though. It’s very frustrating that the only contemporary image in the 1534 medal.

  98. ACE says:

    I believe that few women have suufered so much through bad publicity and contemporary charecter and appearance assassination as Anne. A bout a week ago i watched a Tv show on PBS about the History of Hampton Court and one of the “experts” stated that apparently Anne wasn’t much to look at and then later in the
    show stated that she believed Henry had fallen for Anne in a case of “love at First sight”.It’s not even logical. Amongst all the reports of a 6th finger and warts on the neck and projecting teeth etc. its hard to think of Anne as attractive at all. But realistically she must have been. If Henry was approximatly 35 and at the time thought of as a good looking king. He could have had his pick, It is hardly likely that Anne would have been anything other than attractive. Her other attributes of personal charm and wit would have been extra benefits. After Anne’s murder- I refuse to see it as anything other than that(and let us not forget that the spiteful Henry also murdered her brother, and 3 others in his homicidal frenzy) I believe that all pleasant descriptions and portraits were removed/ destroyed in order to villefy Anne. To the victor goes the spoils, just as in any war.The crimes that Anne was supposed to be guilty of – Henry had committed, he was married and he cheated- He married Jane Seymour within days of Anne’s death. I think he was a monster. And Anne much maligned. At best she is reported as something like a Wallis Simpson, not much in looks but lots of personal charm, at worst she isd escribed as almost deformed. I think Anne was attractive by the standards of her day. We might not find those same standards applicable today,

  99. Gaylord Joris says:

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    1. Margaret Mancini says:

      Thank you for sharing your knowledge on what’s contemporaneous, what’s not, and on what the latter may have been based. I read all the comments/opinions which followed with great interest. My own opinion is that the first sketch attributed to Holbein (the English hood) works with the lead medal, and what we can see of the expression on the woman’s face seems to work with the N
      Hever/NPG portrait as their is a directness of gaze I would expect of Anne. I also agree that the Hever/NPG portraits were probably copied from the Cornelli. Though we don’t know – and may never know – what Anne looked like, my vote goes to the Hever portrait.

  100. Mimico says:

    I have a question, Holbien drew both of the chalk sketches correct? And they are both suppose to be Anne Boleyn? I find this extremely unlikely, even if some baby fat is removed from the second chalk sketch. The eyebrow shape is different, the nose isn’t as long and pointy and the eye shape is also different. The second chalk drawing also the sitter with a weak double chin and pursed lips, a characteristic of the famous Hans Holbien painting of Jane Seymour. Perhaps it started off as Jane Seymour, maybe during late 1535 or early 1536 because that was when Henry’s attention first began to wander. Then maybe Anne found out about the drawing and threw a fit and demanded Henry change the drawing to one of her. At this stage Anne would have been pregnant and to applease Anne, Henry might have agreed. Maybe Hans Holbien decided to draw Anne on the same piece of paper as a draft. Holbien might only a day or two to work on the draft before Anne miscarried in January 1536, and Henry would have ordered the painting to stop. Or maybe the painting started of as Anne but turned into Jane instead.

    John Cheke became Edward’s scholar in 1542, so it is possible that Anne Boleyn and him never met. If this was the case, he would have to rely on his freinds. Since Anne’s name was taboo around this time it would have been hard to ask anyone about her appearance,_inscribed_%22Anna_Bollein_Queen%22,_by_Hans_Holbein_the_Younger.jpg
    This chalk drawing shows the lady with golden hair, and while Anne Boleyn might not have had black hair, she was a brunette and this women doesn’t have that characteristic.

    Just my thoughts!

    P.S; My favourite is the John Hoskins Minature

  101. Dee says:

    I’m probably way off the mark here…but looking at the Somerley portrait, which cannot provide an exact date for when it was painted, I can’t help wondering if it could be a portrait of Amy Robsart Dudley…the ‘D’ that is mentioned as being on the gown, the design of the flower on the bodice resembles one in another picture that has been questioned as being her, she was known to be a devout Catholic (despite the times), so the rosary beads would make sense and the book is probably a prayer book or Bible. Just a thought.
    As to the pictures of Anne Boleyn…I think unquestionably the Hever portrait bears a marked resemblance to the ‘Chequers’ ring, and I suspect we need to take the ring as the closest likeness to Anne, given it was owned and worn by her daughter Elizabeth, it would have to bear a marked resemblance to her Mother. (And I still maintain this ring should be on permanent public display somewhere like the Victoria & Albert Museum or British Museum, or even Hever Castle, rather than kept in the Prime Minister’s house where viewing is only accessible if it is ‘leant out’!

  102. Nik says:

    I agree that the Chequer’s ring is most likely to be a good likeness. Even if Elizabeth was too young to remember her mother, there would still be people around who knew Anne and could verify the image. The Hever/NPG pictures look like the same person.
    I think the first Holbein sketch could also be the same person ( the yellow being part of the hood). However family members may have a strong resemblance. This would also mean that there should be a resemblance between Anne and her daughter. However we need to take into account that often people will describe someone as “looking like their father” or “looking like their mother” rather than a bit of each, showing different people notice different things in a face. Also on this note beauty is in the eye of the beholder and what is considered beautiful changes over time. The contemporary descriptions of Anne suggest that she was what we would call today attractive rather than beautiful and there is much to suggest that Henry fell for her personality as much as her looks.

  103. Lisa says:

    The Holbein Windsor was never one I thought could possibly be Anne Boleyn, until recently. I found Lucy Churchill’s reconstruction of the Anne Boleyn The Moost Happi portrait medal to be incredibly fascinating. If you look at her reconstruction of the medal, the woman in it has a more pronounced chin and lip that do resemble the Windsor Holbein portrait. The hair of course being blond in the portrait is a problem, but if you look closely at the Chequers ring, the hair of that woman appears to be blonde. Oh, how I wish we had the Lumley portrait. Is there anything at all that gives any indication to what might have happened to it? My dream is that someday a portrait of Anne shows up that would be an authentic likeness of her. It seems such a shame that this incredibly fascinating woman has no firm birth date, and no actual portrait of her, especially to all of us who adore her and can’t get enough information about her! (As I was looking over the pictures again my 17 year old daughter looked at the Nidd Hall one and said, “That can’t be Anne! Where’s her long, elegant neck?” and I realized that the Nidd Hall woman doesn’t have a long neck…it is actually rather short.)

  104. Ilina says:

    I truly believe that the NPG portrait shows the real face of Anne Boleyn.

  105. Karen B says:

    I’ve just discovered this article, and found it very interesting. Thankyou Claire.
    I printed off the comments of other readers which followed the piece, and reading these i realised that people were enthusiastic about the “Somerly Portrait” as a possible representation of Anne Boleyn.

    I had never seen this painting so i went to “Somegreymatter” and read the information there. Personally i don’t think it is Anne, mainly because the sitter has much lighter colouring and more rounded features than contemporary descriptions of her suggest. It is a lovely painting, though.

    With regard to the “D” motif on the lady’s sleeve the author suggested certain likely candidates, but did not mention Lady Margaret Douglas. I just felt that it could be her.

    As Henry’s neice she was favoured by the King and Queen during Anne’s reign. She would have been entitled to wear ermine sleeves as a member of the Royal family. The similarity of her forehead to the painting of Princess Mary could be because they were cousins. Her facial appearance also resembles a portrait of Margaret Tudor, her mother, by Daniel Mytens (The Royal Collection). Margaret Douglas would have been aged fifteen in 1530.

    I’d like to add that i love the Lucas Cornelli miniature, hopefully of Anne, and i like to imagine this as the image Henry cherished during their courtship.

  106. Ellen Catusco says:

    In The Windsor Castle Holbein drawing, could Anne be pregnant? It would give her a heavier face. I read that he was designing a cradle for them. The sitter almost looks lost in thought. As if sketched without knowing.

  107. Daphne says:

    What strikes me abnout all the paintings is that none of them show the ‘wide mouth’ of contemporary descriptions. She might have appeared tall due to her thin figure. I think hyperthyroidism could have caused both the ‘goggle-eyed’ loook described and made her eyes seem very large and also account for the swelling in her neck.Fashions in female apperance change but a sallow complexion is not considered beautiful in any era. Some animation in her face and manner must have been the attraction – lack of passivity and lots of spirit. For me the most likely one of the portraits is the miniature by Corelli. It has a reality and three dimensional quality that the others lack. I think all of them seem to show her as fairer skinned than she probably was. I also can see a possibility in both the NPG one in terms of the expression in the eyes – a slightly mocking humour.

    1. Christine says:

      Yes I thought that, in all the paintings of Anne she has a little mouth and her hair is more like a chestnut colour, yet all the descriptions of her say her hair was black, or very dark brown, I like the Hever Rose portrait and the Hoskins one, although in the latter she has a smaller face and softer features, it is a pity Henry destroyed most of her paintings as we can only speculate what she really looked like

  108. SBS says:

    The Windsor Castle Holbein drawing looks exactly like another Holbein’s portrait of Catherine Willoughby Duchess of Suffolk. They look like exactly the same woman but at different angle, eyes, nose, lips, face and even the double chin is the same.

    Compare for yourself:

    Windsor Castle Holbein drawing:

    Duchess of Suffolk,_12th_Baroness_Willoughby_de_Eresby#mediaviewer/File:Catherine,_Duchess_of_Suffolk_by_Hans_Holbein_the_Younger.jpg

    1. Bela says:

      I think you are exactly right. The Windsor Castle Holbein is The Duchess of Suffolk.

  109. joseja says:

    like most of us smitten with tudor history, be it in a small or larger way, i can say i had seen nearly every portrait that is considered to be of AB that exists until i saw the cornelli portrait posted here. to me it was so immediately striking that i believe it is the truest likeness of her.

    all things taken into account regarding her age and whereabouts at the time this artist did the portrait, her writings, her personality and personal style, and the contemporary descriptions of her; i can’t help but think this one is the real deal! this lady is rebellious, clever, tough yet sweet and slightly vulnerable in her aspect as she sizes you up at the same time. she looks alive and ready to debate an issue with you in this representation. wow!

    i think the npg portrait may be a later rendering because to me it has a lot of anne’s daughter elizabeth in the face. the hever rose portrait is probably pretty close.

    1. joseja says:

      the experts did say that the hever and the npg were done from life but was it possible the npg was later “retouched” to look more like her daughter?

      1. Claire says:

        The only contemporary image we have of Anne is the 1534 medal, unfortunately, as experts believe other images to have been painted in Elizabeth’s reign.

  110. Gail Marion says:

    There is so much contributing to the sex appeal of a 16th century aristocratic woman that cannot be conveyed in portraits. The facial complexion, quality of teeth, hair, breath. Anne was described as having a wide mouth, but the preferred size of the era was a small mouth which is conveyed in so many of these portraits.

    I like best the Chequers ring, an item that Elizabeth must have looked lovingly upon, its provenance and artistry beyond compare.

  111. Katie R says:

    I always thought that the Windsor Castle Holbein sketch bore a pretty strong resemblance to the NPG portrait and the medal. The nose and placement of the eyes are very similar. As for the chin: The shadows in both the NPG and Hever portraits are rendered quite simply. What we may be looking at is a combination of a jawline, perhaps ending halfway to the bottom of the hood, and shadowing or a thin strap securing some part of her headgear to her head. Also, seconding what someone said earlier about straps giving you an unnatural double chin.

  112. Robyn Topham says:

    There is a chalk and ink drawing of the Duchess of Suffolk, Katherine by Hans Holbein the Younger. There is little doubt in my mind that the drawing of the lady in the second sketch (chin tied headdress) is indeed a sketch for this portrait of Katherine, ward of and fourth wife of Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk. Worth a comment.

  113. Selina says:

    Even though this article is old, and this has been mentioned before, I want to add that I believe that one of the Holbein sketches depicts Catherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk.

  114. bruno says:

    Always been taken by Anne Boleyn and the mystery surrounding her person . Precocious child, she grew into a lively, charming woman before her strong will (rather than the tender feelings inspired by an egotist king) made her a queen . That might be the reason why I prefer Holbein’s sketches – they display such an impression a life ! – even knowing that perhaps they don’t represent the english queen . I agree with Katie R, they still seem compatible with what we know about Anne’s features . High checkbones, rather longish, ovale face . The only thing is in any portrait of the queen we can see she had a little mouth with fine lips (particularities shared by her daughter, but in a dramatical way according to the official portraits : insignificant mouth and no lips at all!)), in contradiction with an account of the time . However, when it comes upon the physical resemblance (only supposed with what we actually know on the matter), I find all these portraits compatible (except for the Horenbolte, big curved nose and a short, broad face) . I find the article, and the discussion it bears is very interesting

  115. Matisse says:

    I think that Anne Boleyn was an interesting person and I watched a video clip on YouTube of her and King Henry and it showed her falling in love with a much younger man and then refusing to Mary King Henry. But she had to so she did an she soon grew to love him but I think that before she became queen she had a much happier and playful life and personality for when she became King Henry the eighths wife she was more used to getting what she wanted when she wanted it. She died a sad death and King Henry was to blame for that because he accused her of something not done. So the portrait I liked best was the one that was darkest and with ought a smile because I think that that showed her true life behind the palace walls.

  116. william says:

    william , from France
    well , my favourite is the Hever Castle portrait with the rose; if you look at her hands they are similar to the ghost hand of Anne Boleyn from a recent photo taken by a tourist at Hever Castle and considered non fake by photo experts

  117. Renee Lee says:

    No question for me tht the Hever castle image seems most like the real Anne. It also just feels more like an actual person….. the others are so stiff and lacking that human touch.
    One thing that’s hard to reconcile (and that other people don’t mention much) is that the people who knew her said she had a full mouth…. most of the images show someone with a decidedly small, pursed mouth. One other note that probably only matters to me : it’s a little weird and creepy that seeing the Hever image reminds me almost exactly of myself… hair, same coloring, face shape, nose, mouth, and yes eyes…… the whole thing. It’s an honor to look like someone that i like so much.

  118. william says:

    william , from france .I ‘ ve just noticed that there is an x ray portrait of an unknown mysterious young woman under the portrait of an aged Elizabeth 1 and we might thus assume that this portrait could be the good one, above all because as Renee reminded us with reason Anne was supposed to have a full mouth, like here ! in the article ” through the eyes of Anne Boleyn we can see a reconstruction drawing of Anne x ray portrait , well made but to me her hair were more red brown than in the drawing and her eyes darker , the drawer was probably mistaken by the fact that x rays always enlighten much the features and especially the eyes on the said picture thanks to leave me an answer about this passionate matter !!

  119. Adam Pennington says:

    I’ve always favoured the NPG image over the Hever one, I’ve also always struggled to see their similarities, which further frustrates me. Sure the colouring, shape of face, clothing etc. all match, but the faces just don’t! The facial features are not the same. Having done more research, I’m inclined to believe that the NPG portrait is a copy of a lost original from Anne in her prime, and the much maligned Nidd Hall portrait to be an image of Anne in her final days. Apparently at her execution she looked much pleaser than her years and must have aged prematurely from all the childbirth stress. If you play around with the Nidd Hall portrait to make it look more youthful, it quite quickly looks a lot like the NPG portrait. I so wish they’d just dig her up, give us a proper facial recognition then bury her properly in Westminster with her daughter.

    1. Adam Pennington says:

      *looked much older, not pleaser!

  120. I have an article to submit regarding a new contemporary likeness of Anne Boleyn. Can I submit it as an email attachment for consideration as a post on this website?

    1. Claire says:

      Hi Richard,
      Thank you for your email and your comment. I usually only post articles by historians, authors and researchers I have got to know but I’d be interested in hearing your take on Anne Boleyn portraiture. If you could let me know more about you, that would be great. Thank you!

  121. juha says:

    Upper left picture person is dark haired the blond part is part oh the head piece -She is Anne drawn by Holbein (sketch but still Anne… dark eyes etc)

  122. Robin Young says:

    The earliest published analyses of which portrait was Anne were done by male art historians, who are notably ignoring of women’s issues. I believe the two Holbein chalk sketches are Anne at two different times of her life. Sometimes the headdress was worn with a cloth band which covered the as part of the base. The golden strip under the headdress in this preliminary sketch may be hair or golden cloth. These sketches were not final products, but for him to use as prompts when the real portraits were painted. So that alone is not a good determinant. If looking at the entire corpus of Holbein’s court paintings, it can be noted that some of the men just sat in their shirts, one bare chested – perhaps on a hot day. Holbein would later add their clothing. More normally tho, he spent a little time on the cut and fit of the clothing, drew one link of a chain or ornament or pattern of Spanish black on white embroidery for the collar, and wrote the color of the garment parts. I believe the portrait with the golden band was Anne in her younger days, before her marriage, before she became queen. I believe the portrait marked as Queen was Anne after her marriage to Henry, already pregnant. Judging by the slant of the garments, heavily pregnant. Acceptable dress for a very pregnant noblewoman in her own house was her chemise covered by an outer robe. The chemise was the under garment worn by all ladies. Only the poorest had not other one and so slept in it. Anne had luxurious nightgowns so this is not her sleeping gown, as someone tittered. She is not indecently attired, or shocking. It is possible Anne sat for this portrait as the imminent mother of the heir to the English throne. She may have been swollen in pregnancy, as many women have faces that fill out, even Duchess Catherine today. To suggest she had scrofula, the “King’s Evil” which kings for generations could cure [so it was thought] by the laying on of hands, is pretty illogical. Like he’d keep a bridge or take a bride with this well known condition. Eager to publicize her new role as Queen, Anne may have sat for the portrait not long after her coronation, a long and tiring day, exhausting to a pregnant woman, and this might be reflected in her demeanor. No longer the bold girl out to capture a king but the calmly breeding mother of a future king. Very grateful for the comparisons and the story put together by this website. Needed to recheck the comparisons as I have just hung a long ago purchased copy of the first sketch in my dining room. I remembered the yes it was, not it wasn’t discussion but not the details.

  123. Jackie Darstein says:

    I truly believe that the controversial sketch by Holbein, double chin and all, is of Anne Boleyn. I believe it she was sitting, resting, waiting for her pregnancy to come to an end. Full, swollen face, swollen glands, those high cheek bones no longer visible under the face of pregnancy. Not feeling like prettying up. I don’t know the history of Holbein’s being there, perhaps Anne let him sketch her as a favor, as a record of herself during childbirth….maybe for private viewing only. He must have been a good friend.

    She’s also getting older, has been under of lots of stress….not looking like her younger self, her courtly self seen in the elegant paintings. The other examples may or may not also be of her, but I do think this sketch is also.

  124. Renee says:

    Nidd Hall and NPG portraits are the SAME woman. It’s so easy to see, they are shown one on top of the other so that comparison is simple. In the Nidd hall image, Anne is clearly older, but the features are just the same as the NPG portrait. I shouldn’t even have to say it, it’s so obvious. Also, people draw wrong conclusions by misinterpreting the sketches / paintings. Anne is not shown as a blonde…… what people are seeing is part of the head-gear/ hoods that were worn…… it is a headband and NOT blonde hair. Further, i really doubt that Anne had a swelling on her neck. In my view, the bonnet is tied with a string and it cuts into her flesh giving her an unattractive double chin. If anyone tied that string under their chin, they too would have an ugly double chin. It is that and the fact that she’s quite homely and not displaying her cherished hair or her fine wardrobe that makes me think that the Holbein sketch couldnt be anne. As to the Holbein sketch of a (reputedly) younger Anne, i have no trouble believing that this woman could nab a King…… she has striking eyes and looks sexy and determined…. you can just feel her personality, even at this great distance. Whatever people say or think, THIS is how i choose to see Anne.

  125. Judy Bickers says:

    I really enjoyed seeing these. My gut says the miniature and the one at Hever are of Anne. So many were jealous of her and promoted false descriptions of her. She had to have been beautiful and captivating. So many men were in love with her. King Henry could have had any woman in the world but he chose her.

  126. panthergirl says:

    Somerley was finished in 1795 and designed by a Wyatt. How amusing would a Wyatt have found it to buy the full length portrait of Anne Boleyn ” because in 1590 Lord Lumley owned a full-length portrait of Anne Boleyn and we know that it existed as late as 1773″ and install it at a magnificent house he has just finished? (Further provenance research to connect the dots by one of our lovely folks across the pond who can access such things would help.) Conceivable I have the wrong house / portrait combo entirely, please do check.

    1.) Take the portrait of Queen Elizabeth in red as a young teenage girl, expand it. Expand the Somerley Anne Boleyn next to each other. Whoever painted each had to have seen the exact same nose on two different women decades apart. Check the shape of the head and those eyes.
    2.) Anne Boleyn’s early badge was a leopard. Wearing Leopard would be amusing, but was confined to royalty by sumptuary law. Who else would Henry have let wear leopard? The Somerly woman has the neck & the eyes generally attributed to Anne Boleyn, but a very similarly shape to the lips as Mary Boleyn’s in portraiture reputed to be Mary Boleyn.
    3.) This woman values books over finger rings, something we also see in the Hever Castle/rose image above. Who else royal, at that time, did not wear rings in a formal portrait? What bookish nerd is this?
    4.) The woman in the Somerley portrait is young, but very powerful to wear Leopard. She could easily have the same hair color as the woman in Holbein’s sketch if the Somerley portrait needs cleaning.
    5.) The woman in the Somerley portrait could easily have a bit of a beginning thyroid issue, as has been suggested.
    6.) Can anyone figure out the badge the woman is wearing in the Somerley portrait? If that could be authenticated back to a Howard or Boleyn or list of Anne’s jewels that would help.

    Anyway, the Somerley portrait is a lovely one, of a woman whose eyes certainly haunt and intrigue. (Apologies for any spelling errors, the problem of using MSWord is you get used to the autocorrect.)

  127. Mary Benedict says:

    Is it a fact that what looks like blonde hair on the woman in the ring miniature is actually part of the hood? How do we know that the portrait opposite that of the Queen is Anne Boleyn? Could it be her aunt Mary? Also, regarding looks, some people have charisma and sex appeal that overrides lack of beauty. The idea of Anne as a great beauty seems to be an invention of movies and TV and Philippa Gregory. And as we know from portraits of Jane Seymour, classic beauty was not a prerequisite for Henry VIII. Seymour was downright homely.

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