New MFAH Exhibit, Tudors to Windsors, Chronicles 500 Years of the British Monarchy

Unprecedented loans from the National Portrait Gallery, London featured in the exhibition Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits from Holbein to Warhol  

Exhibit sheds new light on changing ideas of monarchy and nationhood in Britain, from Hans Holbein, Sir Peter Lely, and Sir Joshua Reynolds to Cecil Beaton, Andy Warhol, and Annie Leibovitz


A major partnership between the National Portrait Gallery, London, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, brings a sweeping survey of British royal portraiture to Houston starting October 7th.

Paul Delaroche, The Execution of Lade Jane Grey

Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits from Holbein to Warhol showcases masterworks of painting, sculpture, and photography dating from the first monarch of the House of Tudor, Henry VII, to Elizabeth II, the reigning queen of the United Kingdom.

Through some 150 objects—most never before seen outside of England—the survey showcases the extraordinary history and fascinating figures of five centuries of British royalty.

The exhibition will be on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), from October 7, 2018, to January 27, 2019.


After Allan Ramsay, Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, 1761–62

Tudors to Windsors highlights depictions of monarchy from masterworks by Hans Holbein, Sir Peter Lely, Sir Joshua Reynolds to the modern icons Cecil Beaton, Andy Warhol, and Annie Leibovitz.

The exhibition draws from the unparalleled collection of the National Portrait Gallery.

The MFAH has secured additional loans from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Palazzo Barberini, Rome; the Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid; as well as the Snowdon Archive and National Gallery, London.

It is the first time that the National Portrait Gallery has allowed such a large number of its greatest treasures to travel, providing an unparalleled overview of a cavalcade of kings, queens, princes, and princesses.

“It is a privilege to partner with the National Portrait Gallery in organizing this landmark exhibition,” commented Gary Tinterow, MFAH director. “Their unique collection provides visitors an incomparable experience of Britain’s royal historical narrative and the opportunity to view these legendary personalities face-to-face.”

Dr. Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery, London, said, “This unprecedented exhibition provides visitors the opportunity to encounter some of history’s most fascinating personalities as well as many of the most accomplished portraits produced in the last 500 years.”


Andy Warhol, Queen Elizabeth II

Tudors to Windsors explores four royal dynasties: the Tudors (1485–1603), the Stuarts (1603–1714), the Hanoverians (1714–1901), and the present-day House of Windsor.

Recurring historical patterns of war, social/religious upheaval, economic/industrial progress and decline as well changing attitudes toward monarchy.

Highlights include:

Hans Holbein the Younger’s monumental portrait of Henry VIII shows the infamous ruler without any of the standard royal accoutrements to convey his power through presence alone. This portrait, from the Palazzo Barberini collection, is the greatest surviving painting of Henry VIII by Holbein.

Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry VIII, was famously portrayed by some of the greatest artists of her time. The famous “Ditchley Portrait” (c. 1592) by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger has never before been seen in the U.S.

“The Virgin Queen” stands on a map of England, with her foot planted on the estate of Ditchley Park, Oxfordshire, for which the painting was commissioned. It is one of the most historically important paintings in the National Portrait Gallery’s collection.

Two important portraits in the exhibition are by Robert Peake the Elder, an artist little known today.

They depict two of the most tragic Stuarts—the siblings Henry, Prince of Wales, and Princess Elizabeth. Henry died at 18 from typhoid fever.

The six monarchs of the House of Hanover—bookended by King George I and Queen Victoria—reigned through eras buoyed by the Empire’s vast expansion.

A highlight of this section are two portraits by Allan Ramsay: King George III, who lost the American colonies, and his Queen Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.

Sir James Gunn, Conversation Piece at the Royal Lodge, Windsor, 1950

Works on view also trace the history of the Windsors through the 20th and 21st centuries.

These are from Lord Snowdon’s portraits of his wife Princess Margaret in the 1960s, to Mario Testino’s intimate shots of Diana in the 1990s and Annie Leibovitz’s recent photo series of Queen Elizabeth II.


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FEATURED PHOTO: Sir James Gunn, Conversation Piece at the Royal Lodge, Windsor, 1950