Decorative tree from a bed hanging. Artist unknown. Victoria and Albert Museum.

In literature and music, England saw an extraordinary flowering of genius during the Renaissance. Oddly enough, that flowering did not extend to the visual arts. From Holbein* under Henry VIII to Reubens and Van Dyck under Charles I, the great paintings produced in England were created by imported artists.

Hans Holbein, the younger (c.1497-1543) became Court painter to Henry VIII, whose portrait he painted. He also sketched the family of Sir Thomas More. He died of the plague in London.

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Domestic art remained vigorous and inventive as is shown here by an embroidery designed to decorate a four-poster bed. The design is taken from natural subjects, and is full of life and colour. A tablecloth (or "table carpet") from the period has the same interest in subjects drawn from everyday life.

More images are on the next page.

Footnotes

  1. Hans Holbein

    Hans Holbein, the younger (c.1497-1543) became Court painter to Henry VIII, whose portrait he painted. He also sketched the family of Sir Thomas More. He died of the plague in London.