Mary Tudor, Queen of England, Second Wife of Philip II1554. Oil on panel, 109 x 84 cm.
In 1604 in his biography of Mor, Karel van Mander referred to the artist’s trip to London in 1554, where he was sent on the orders of Charles V to paint Mary Tudor (1516–1558), and to the success of the resulting work.1 The queen is depicted seated, almost full-length, following Raphael’s portrait of Julius II of 1512 (London, National Gallery), and that of Juana of Aragon of 1518 (Paris, Musée du Louvre).2 Mor depicts the queen in three-quarter profile, seated in a red velvet chair, a symbol of royalty, which is splendidly embroidered in contrast to normal chairs of this type. The queen’s body is situated at an oblique angle to the picture plane in order to increase the sense of spatial depth. She holds the red Tudor rose in her right hand and gloves adorned with stones in her left. She wears a dress with a foliate pattern and a purple overgarment, while her headdress, cuffs and belt are encrusted with pearls and precious stones. Hanging from her neck is the jewel given to her by Prince Philip. Mor represented Mary Tudor in a tense and somewhat rigid pose. He did not improve her rather plain features in line with the decorum appropriate to her rank3 but nonetheless endowed her with a majestic air that tones down her plainness.With his minutely detailed brushwork and the richness of his colouring (in imitation of Holbein) the artist succeeded in expressing her strength of character in the face of adversity. Commissioned by Charles V, who so appreciated this portrait that he took it with him to Yuste, it was inherited on the Emperor’s death by Philip II. In 1600 it was inventoried in the royal jewel store in the Alcázar in Madrid.4 It remained in the royal collection until it entered the Museo del Prado in 1854. The only daughter of Henry VIII of England and Catherine of Aragon, Mary was declared illegitimate when Henry repudiated her mother. After the death of her stepbrother Edward VI, she was proclaimed queen in October 1553 and restored the Catholic faith in England. Given the advantages to Spain of a union with England and in the light of the Emperor’s refusal to marry her (despite having been betrothed to her for some years), Mary of Hungary convinced Mary Tudor to marry Prince Philip, who was eleven years her junior.5 They married at Winchester in July 1554. Mary Tudor died in November 1558 while Philip was fighting in France, bringing Spanish hopes in this affair to an end. (Falomir Faus, M.: El retrato del Renacimiento, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2008, p. 509-510)