Artist: Tessa Posthuma de Boer
Hahnemühle German Etching print, 45x30cm (18×12 inch), unframed, edition of 30. The prints are numbered and signed on the back by the artist.
Anne of Cleves (Anna von Kleve), (born September 22, 1515—died July 16, 1557, London, England), fourth wife of King Henry VIII of England. Henry married Anne because he believed that he needed to form a political alliance with her brother, William, duke of Cleves, who was a leader of the Protestants of western Germany. He thought the alliance was necessary because in 1539 it appeared that the two major Roman Catholic powers, France and the Holy Roman Empire, were about to join together to attack Protestant England. That threat prompted Henry’s chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, to arrange the marriage to establish ties between England and the Lutheran enemies of the Holy Roman emperor, Charles V.
‘Tessa’s Tudor faces – so real, so recognizable – have made me smile and also brought tears into my eyes. When you see the magnificent portraits of the Tudor court made by Holbein and the other masters, you are impressed and enlightened – but you cannot imagine the subjects moving out of their positions, or having a conversation with you, or acknowledging your existence at all; we are looking at them, but they are oblivious to us. In Tessa’s playful, clever re-creation, they seem ready to move and speak. They are as close and solid as someone you might pass in the street. And yet they preserve their unique dignity, their individuality. They are long gone, but suddenly present, and looking at us.’ – Hilary Mantel
Over the past eight months, Dutch photographer Tessa Posthuma de Boer has worked intensively on a series of portraits of Henry VIII, his six wives, Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell. She began in response to the ‘Cromwell Trilogy’ by Hilary Mantel, of which the final volume, The Mirror and the Light, was published this spring. For all three volumes of the Dutch edition new cover designs were required, but the photographer was so captivated by the subject that it did not end there and another six portraits followed.*
Are you looking at a photograph or a painting? With her photographic collages Tessa Posthuma de Boer creates a bridge, as it were, to the past – ‘they seem ready to move and speak’ – just as Hilary Mantel creates a bridge to the present by writing about a sixteenth-century period in the present tense.