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This is the earliest picture in the Tate Collection. The artist’s name is inscribed on the back, and the inscriptions on the front indicate that the work was painted ‘in the year of our lord 1545’, and that the sitter was aged twenty-six. Bettes is first recorded carrying out decorative work for Henry VIII’s court in 1531–3, and he may have worked with Hans Holbein The Younger, the most famous Tudor painter. Originally this portrait was larger, and would have had a blue background similar to the colour often used by Holbein. Due to long exposure to light, the pigment (smalt) has changed to brown.

July 2007