Sunday, May 5, 2013

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: King Henry VIII’s Writing Box, 1525

Writing Box
English, 1525
Made for Henry VIII
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This impressive writing box was almost certainly created in the court workshops of Henry VIII (reign: 1509 to 1547). Lined with leather it is painted with the heraldic badges of Henry VIII and his first queen, Katherine of Aragon (1485-1536), as well as the royal coat of arms. Curators of the V&A believe that the box was made between 1520 and 1527. The interior adornment includes painted portrait miniatures in the popular style of the 1520’s. Soon after this box was made, Henry began divorce proceedings against Katherine (1527), so it’s good present condition owes much to the fact that he’d be loathe to use a writing box which featured a portrait of his soon-to-be ex-wife.

The exterior of the desk is quite plain when compared to its elaborate red silk velvet and painted interior. It is covered with shagreen (leather, possibly sharkskin), mounted with metal-gilt angle-mounts, loop handles and ball feet. These were added later in the Eighteenth Century. The present red silk velvet lining is most likely a Nineteenth Century replacement for the original lining. Traces of the original crimson silk velvet appear on the bottoms of the largest compartments.

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