Henry VIII removed the heads of two of his wives but Holbein would seem to have removed much of the monarchís own head in this portrait currently on show at Tate Britain
David Hockney has a show at the National Portrait Gallery to coincide and compete with Holbein, as he suggested on the radio this week. There are similarities since they both have a particular way of seeing, and both are inclined to flatter the sitter.
Portraiture is thought to be compromised and diminished by the need to beautify, and only when a painter fails to flatter, as might Lucien Freud, is the art elevated and lauded.
Hockney has in fact sat for Freud, and Freud has reciprocated, but less wholeheartedly, according to Hockney.
The Holbein show is nevertheless a revelation because he is such a remarkable draughtsman. Set aside the formal portraits of monarchs and gentry if you will, and wonder at the drawings.
It is hardly possible to think of Henry without reference to his inflated Cod Piece, but Holbein has apparently removed a third of his head for no good purpose. Perhaps he ran out of canvas.
. Shoestring Chronicle