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King William I (1066-87) and Henry I (1100-35)


Artist: Bernard Lens

on vellum, both signed with monogram on the obverse , the former signed in full on reverse and dated October 26 1728 and the latter dated 1732
set in contemporary rectangular ebonised frames

In 1720 Lens was appointed 'Painter in Enamell [sic] in Ordinary' to King George I (an unsalaried position, according to George Vertue), and after the king's death in 1727 served his successor George II in the same capacity. This official title was somewhat of a misnomer, as Lens never worked in enamel: Vertue notes that his predecessor in the post, Charles Boit (1662-1727), had caused the honorary designation to be changed from 'Limner' to 'Enameller' to reflect his own talents, and the title was simply transferred to Lens. It is as a painter of miniatures that Lens is best remembered:

Lens painted original likenesses throughout his career, but he also had a thriving business limning copies of historic miniatures and miniature copies on paper or vellum of oil paintings by both Old Masters and contemporary artists, of which these two are perfect examples. A number of Bernard Lens's copies reproduce historic sixteenth- and seventeenth-century portrait miniatures, these two portraits are part of a series of likenesses of kings and queens of England, many of which survive in multiple examples. Six of these miniature copies of Kings are in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (inv. E.594-1994 to E.599-1994).

On 14 October 1066 William became the first Norman king of England after defeating the Anglo-Saxon army at the Battle of Hastings. King Harold II of
England was killed in the battle and William was crowned king at Westminster Abbey the following Christmas Day.

In the sixteenth century William was celebrated as a great warrior and a strong leader. A general interest in the history of the nation and in royal genealogy led to a demand for portraits of early kings and queens and other historical figures. This image by Lens appears to be based on a print from Henry Holland's Baziliologia (or Book of Kings) (1618).

Henry I also known as Henry Beauclerc, was King of England from 1100 to his death. Henry was the fourth son of William the Conqueror. This miniature by Lens appears to mark Henry's coronation in 1100 in Westminster Abbey.
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