The Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool is hosting a ‘once-in-a-generation’ exhibition – The Tudors: Passion, Power and Politics, with around 100 objects, including 68 pieces from the National Portrait Gallery.
The blockbuster summer show presents the five Tudor monarchs: Henry VII; Henry VIII; Edward VI; Mary I; and Elizabeth I. Being some of the most popular figures in English history, their portraits may seem like a familiar sight yet the exhibition is a fantastic opportunity to see them in person. Their depictions have remained as vibrant as they were 500 years ago so visit the show for a chance to come face-to-face with Elizabeth I’s steely stare and admire Anne Boleyn’s painted pearl necklace.
While we may all be familiar with Henry VIII’s antics, penchant for cruelty and well-defined calves, the dynasty’s reign over 16th-century England spanned from 1485 to 1603 and included the turbulent years of the Reformation, a literary renaissance, conflicts with Scotland, France and Spain, and colonisation in Ireland and America so there is a lot of historical ground to cover.
Alongside the portraits of the monarchs, you’ll also find depictions of other key figures from the period: Thomas More; Thomas Cromwell; Robert Dudley; William Cecil; and Francis Walsingham. That’s not all though, as the show also includes some fascinating objects, like the Bacton Altar Cloth which is possibly the only known surviving example of Elizabeth I’s clothing. The Armada Maps on the other hand, illustrate the conflict between the Spanish Armada and the English fleet in 1588.
As well as the monarchs, the display will also showcase some of the lesser known figures and aspects of the Tudor period, such as Black Tudor history and LGBTQ+ history. For example, the exhibition spotlights the life of court trumpeter John Blanke. His image, which appears on the Westminster Tournament Roll, is the only known, identified, portrait of a Black figure in Tudor England.
The Westminster Tournament Roll is actually one of the highlights of the show and was last on display 20 years ago – it has never before been seen outside of London. This fascinating object was created to celebrate the birth of Henry VIII’s son with Katherine of Aragorn and depicts the joust that the king called in February 1511 to mark the occasion.
The Tudors: Passion, Power and Politics is not an exhibition to be missed – with the pieces having made it all the way from London as well as other locations especially for the display, this is the perfect chance to experience these famed works at first hand and enjoy the power of art to bring history to life.