Anne Boleyn: The B Pattern
Anne Boleyn was the second Queen of Henry VIII, she was executed in 1536, and she is arguably one of the more popular figures in Tudor history today. Similar to Lady Jane Grey, many portraits have been associated with Anne’s name over the course of time. None have produced the documentation to conclusively prove an identification and Anne continues to go without a portrait painted from life to this day.
One of the most famous depictions of Anne is what I refer to as the B pattern. This image has been extensively reproduced in history books when discussing Anne’s story. The B pattern depicts a lady wearing a black French Hood and a pearl necklace with a gold letter ‘B’ hanging from it. All surviving portraits were probably produced as part of portrait sets illustrating Kings and Queens of England, but what I find interesting about these portrait’s, is, we know so little about them.
During the latter half of the sixteenth century it had become popular for ‘portrait sets’ to be produced. These sets were often displayed in public places, in galleries, in homes across Tudor England and in some of the royal palaces occupied by the Monarch. Portrait sets were not only produced to document historic figures, but also demonstrated loyalty to a specific cause. As the mother of the Reigning Monarch, Elizabeth I, Anne was often depicted within the sets as the wife of Henry VIII.
Portrait sets were created in workshops and required a lesser skilled artist than the Great Masters who were probably commissioned to paint the original, thus making them cheaper and more accessible to the individual living in Tudor England. An image was often derived from a standard pattern of an individual, based on an existing image, description, engraving or in some circumstances a tomb effigy. These could be used by the workshops to quickly trace the desired image on to a wooden panel so that the portrait could be produced as quickly and effectively as possible.
A small number of portraits based on the B pattern and dated to the end of sixteenth century still exist today. Some are in public galleries whilst others remain in private collections across the world. Most of the individual portraits depicting Anne, first appear in documentation during the turn of the twentieth century, with little known regarding there provenance prior to this.
The B pattern was most certainly accepted as an image of Anne Boleyn during the latter half of the sixteenth century. As for what source it was based on, in truth, we do not really know today. The purpose of this study is to look at the surviving collection of portraits depicting Anne that derive from the B pattern. In compiling this study, I hope to establish a better understanding about the production of ‘portrait sets’, and the use of Anne’s image. I hope to Look at each portrait as an individual, in the hope of establishing some sort of database of information concerning each portrait. Where possible I will attempt to document information relating specifically to the date and provenance of each image in the hope of ascertaining more information and identifying a possible sequence in which the portraits were painted.
 For more information on the production and use of portrait sets see: Daunt. Catherine, Portraits Sets in Tudor and Jacobean England, May 2015