What is the most accurate portrait of Anne Boleyn?

That is a tough question to answer because there are no contemporary portraits of her, it seems that they were all detroyed. The National Portrait Gallery is the famous Anne Boleyn portrait yet, although the facial features may be correct, the colouring is wrong - Anne is described as having dark hair and "black eyes" not chestnut hair and light coloured eyes. The Hever Castle rose portrait is definitely closer to that description.

We have been discussing this very question on the forum - see http://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/forum/anne-boleyn-forum/what-do-you-think-anne-really-looked-like/ - and many people feel that the British Library Holbein sketch is probably the closest to what Anne looked like - see http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic-art/269121/21695/Anne-Boleyn-drawing-by-Hans-Holbein-the-Younger-1534-35.

I think Anne Boleyn's exact appearance will always be a mystery so it is hard to know which portrait is more accurate. All we can do is look at contemporary descriptions of her and see if portraits match. By the way, Elizabeth I had a miniature of Anne Boleyn in her locket ring - see http://theanneboleynfiles.wetpaint.com/photo/5080059/Anne+Boleyn+and+Elizabeth - and I assume that the miniature would have been pretty accurate as there were people in Elizabeth's reign who would have known Anne and what she looked like.

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15 thoughts on “What is the most accurate portrait of Anne Boleyn?”

  1. Loretta says:

    The cover of Alison Weir’s book, The Lady in the Tower, has I think a true picture of Anne. That famous portrait that has been so many times awkwardly copied for those who wanted to collect portraits of the Queens of England.. The Royal Collection of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, states that the portrait was probably acquired by Queen Caroline. It is a copy to be sure, but looks like Anne’s features. What do you think?

  2. Claire says:

    It could be accurate, Loretta, but nobody knows for certain. I so wish we knew exactly what she looked like.

  3. Shoshana says:

    Yet another pro for DNA testing. How wonderful if we coud reconstruct the faces of even 1% of royalty through the world. I know I’ll be critized for “disturbing” the dead and fouling their resting places but we do it to others for less reasons – like moving entire cemetaries to lay new roads, excavating graves and moving the remains to make room for the newly deceased in family plots. I don’t believe that the gathering of knowledge would desecrate the royal resting places at all; in fact, I believe that it would enhance the mystic of their crypts and tombs if their true likeness could be display at the resting places.

    1. margaret o sullivan says:

      i agree with shoshanna above

    2. Erika says:

      I just watched a program that reconstructed famous faces such as Lincoln, Shakespeare, Napoleon, and a few others. And didn’t they do Richard 3’s skeleton they found? It would be so interesting to reconstruct Anne’s, Elizabeth I, Henry VII etc. faces!

      1. Agne says:

        But they are not able to, becouse they didnt found their skulls yet… Well, i agree with you, it would be very intresting to see how the Tudors really looked like.

  4. Mattie says:

    I disagree. The picture of Anne Boleyn done by Hans Holbein would be the most accurate. The Holbeins were lithographers, and all their portraits of the other royals depict a three-dimentional lifelike replica, while the other artists have a two-dimentional, flatter appearance.

  5. clwright says:

    The locket ring is certainly engaging to look at. I would LOVE to see it first hand. Where is it kept please?

    As to the likeness inside. It sure looks like the top image (Anne) is red/auburn/chestnut haired just as Elizabeth is. Why would this be if as stated above most personal descriptions of her are “dark hair and black eyes” and as also stated above you would assume the miniature to be fairly accurate as there were contemporaries alive at the time who knew her personally.

  6. sandra says:

    I knew a woman with hair of darkest brown – almost black but not quite. Her hair had auburn highlights where the light hit it. I imagine Anne Boleyn’s hair was similar.

  7. Denise Hansen says:

    I noticed that the 1835 painting of Anne Boleyn reacting to her arrest is clearly based on the the face depicted in the Holbein sketch. Can we asume them that the sketch was acepted as Anne in 1835? I would love to a computer generated image combine the Holbein sketch, the contemopary medal and maybe the National Gallery and the Hever portrait.Also would love to see the portraits morphed into expressions – I always picture Anne – a woman of great wit – laughing.

  8. Ann says:

    I think the Hans Holbein sketch make Anne look a lot like Jo Frost (Super Nanny)!

  9. Sarah says:

    The Hever castle portrait is the wrong Boleyn!. It has come out, that the Boleyn painted in is that of Anne’s sister Mary. As for the Hans Holbein sketch, there is serious doubt that it is Anne, as there is a different family’s coat of arms on the back. For what I understand the portrait in the national gallery, while an copy of an earlier one, is close. If you look at the painting, with that of Elizabeth, you can see shared traits.

    1. Claire says:

      There are a few Hever Castle portraits of Anne Boleyn – the one with the rose, for example, and the one on one side of the fireplace, with the one said to be Mary Boleyn on the other side. Which one are you referring to? Also, do you mean the National Portrait Gallery one, rather than National Gallery? Which ones are you referring to? Thanks.

  10. Camolle says:

    Could it be that the colours from the National Portrait Gallery painting just have faded over time so that her hair no longer looks black but perhaps was originally? Just something I have thought about.

  11. Camille says:

    it was supposed to say Camille!

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