The Tudors: Art and Majesty in Renaissance England by Elizabeth Cleland and Adam Eaker

The Tudors: Art and Majesty in Renaissance England by Elizabeth Cleland and Adam Eaker

Having been fortunate to see the exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this reviewer decided on site that I did not need this book (actually, did not want to transport it on a long flight).  Was I wrong.  This text is superb both in writing and in the illustrations!

Not only did the contributors and editors recreate many of the fabulous items on display, along with accompanying informative text, they included several other art works to further illustrate their points and enhance the text. 

Extensive coverage of Hans Holbein and Quentin Metsys, was matched with more obscure artists’ and craftsmen’s works of jewels, seals, armor, tapestries, manuscripts, ‘plate’ and even architectural drawings (those of Nonsuch were favorite items for this reviewer).

The contributors did not solely praise the artists’ works, they also explained the working methods, preparatory handicraft, ‘complex construction’ and historical/societal context of the pieces. 

Another reason for praise, is that the contributors share the most current scholarship about the items while holding true to the accepted theories from renowned experts.  One item of interest was attached to item 118, the portrait of Elizabeth I often referred to as the Hatfield Portrait.  A compelling argument was made that perhaps the elaborately embroidered gown, represented by the Nicolas Hilliard’s workshop, was indeed crafted by Bess of Hardwick. 

This book can certainly be enjoyed without attending the Exhibition.  Because of  the excellent choice of curated items, a reader gains a tremendous amount of knowledge about Tudor society, albeit the wealthy, especially during the Elizabethan era.