Henry VIII 1537
From the cartoon of the lost fresco for Whitehall Palace after Hans Holbein the Younger.
Researched and painted by Gillie Hoyte Byrom 2006. Hand-painted vitreous enamel on 18 Ct. gold. 3¼ inches by 5½ inches.
This vitreous enamel was commissioned by a client who has nine other pieces I have made especially for him, all of which he would now be willing to exhibit if a suitable venue can be found.
On 16 May 2006 he wrote a letter beginning "I have been thinking about the next project." The framed enamel was finished in December 2006.
The brief for "Henry" was to base the composition on the cartoon in the National Portrait Gallery. The painting made from the cartoon was lost in a fire at Whitehall Palace so there is uncertainty about the colouring. I was asked to research Holbein's work and design my own colouring for the cartoon. I also had to redesign the background to Henry, removing other figures.
Clive Burr cut and shaped the 18ct gold plaque which had to withstand between 30 and 35 firings. Distortion has been my main problem.
Coincidentally in June I was invited to visit enamel painters in Russia and here learnt to further refine my enamelling techniques. The plaque went for laser hallmarking to Birmingham where my own assay mark is held and then the inscription on the reverse giving provenance was engraved locally in Devon. Next the plaque went to Robin Kyte, who made the silver and 18ct gold frame, so that he could achieve a perfect fit as the entire plaque is visible.
In the meantime I researched Holbein's work from books and from visiting the magnificent Holbein exhibition at Tate Britain in the autumn. I also researched Tudor costume, architecture and furnishings. It amused me that books printed in the Victorian era omitted the cod piece and I decided to make it a feature, given Henry's character. It was when I decided to incorporate a gold curtain and a multicoloured carpet which were also typical features of the period, that I realised engraving would further enhance the piece. I specified this to Chris Sole whose cautious approach I appreciate.
The plaque had therefore been handled by five different craftsmen prior to enamelling.