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Bling! Henry

Stephen Farthing (1950 - )

Oil on canvas

2007

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© Stephen Farthing

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  • About the work
    Location
    Country: Other
    City: storage

     Visual clues to the identity of the headless sitter in Bling! Henry, a painting by Stephen Farthing, are a glimpse of a beard and the figure’s stocky stature. Rubies, diamonds and gold chains on his costume dazzle against a black background. Instantly recognisable, the jowly face of the bearded figure signals that this is Henry VIII (1491–1547), King of England and Ireland, renowned for his domineering reign and succession of turbulent marriages.

     

    Referencing a street term from hip-hop culture of wearing gold jewellery, watches and accessories, ‘bling' takes on a new and witty association in Farthing’s painting. Henry’s Tudor chain and jewels are just as ostentatious as any rapper’s medallion. Whether a symbol of kingship or fashion, in both cases, ‘bling’ denotes power and social status.

     

    Bling! Henry is from The Headless Monarch, a series of paintings and drawings by Farthing that were based on the clothing and jewellery of 16th century court portraiture. As a student in Paris in 1974, he became fascinated by historical representations of Louis XV. Later, in 1995, Farthing described how a visit to see the famous Ditchley portrait of Elizabeth I at the National Portrait Gallery re-ignited his earlier interest in early French portraiture. In his ‘Bling!’ series, Farthing playfully explores the constructed world of historical court portraiture in which aspects of sitters’ true identities remain hidden beneath the overt physical trappings of wealth and status.  

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    People
    Henry VIII
    Places
    Materials & Techniques
    canvas, oil, oil painting
  • Details
    Title
    Bling! Henry
    Date
    2007
    Medium
    Oil on canvas
    Dimensions
    height: 75.50 cm, width: 101.00 cm
    Acquisition
    Purchased from Purdy Hicks Gallery, March 2011
    Inscription
    verso, br: 'Henry' / Stephen Farthing
    Provenance
    Purdy Hicks Gallery, London
    GAC number
    18387