Anne of Cleves: the Bruyn portraits

This stunningly beautiful portrait of Anne has been variously attributed to Hans Wertinger or considered to be a copy of the painting at St Johns, Oxford. For much of the 20th century it was lost and only known by the black and white photograph.

I believe this to be the work of Barthyl Bruyn. The artistry of the works of the workshop of Bruyn, the understanding, and depiction of her clothing due to his proximity in Cologne, and the recognition of the influence of the Hapsburg Court on Anne’s clothing.


The delicacy of the work suggests this is a first hand portrait and most likely by Bruyn himself.

The portrait of Elisabeth Bellinghausen is perhaps the best example of how very sensitive and light his work really was, especially compared to the St John’s portrait.

While the majority of portraits his workshop generated were for arching frames there are varies with that style but there are some examples that set in a square frame with shading of the background to match.

The pose likewise is repeated constantly with similar choices of symbols held in the right hand.

Bruyn carefully depicts folds and textures of fabric, and especially that of the goldwork that is ever present in accessories of women of Cologne.

It is possible to distinguish the different kinds of woven golden cloth due to how carefully Bruyn and his workshop depict how each responds to physical forces such as stretched over the frame of the hat. And this is true of the folds of cloth of gold in Anne’s sleeves; they collapse and ripple as they would in reality.

Familiarity with North Rhine Style:

There is a familiarity with clothing of the North Rhine; something not often understood outside of the region then or now.

Barthyl Bruyn and his workshop produced hundreds of depictions of local dress and he was well established by 1539.

The bands on the skirt are to one side as these form one edge of overlapping front skirt panels, a feature found in portraits and other depictions of women from along the Rhine.

Sometimes the skirt overlaps to our left sometimes to our right and this overlap can be seen in the Holbein portrait of Anne as well.

Note, Elisabeth Bellinghausen’s portrait shows no overlap or opening to the front of her skirt. This is often associated with garments that are not lined in fur but rather a figured silk.

Local clothing influences

There is also an understanding of the clothing of the united Duchies, especially the Ducal court, to include the small flat hat perched on top of the more recognisable hat that bulges at the sides. This hat does not appear in the several hundred images of women from Cologne but it does appear in an illustrated manuscript, the Codice de trajes, and does appear in inventories (benet/banet.)

This rare collection of figures depicts both nobility and citizens of Juelich. These do not attempt to capture any likeness, only an attempt to capture the style of clothing. The manuscript appears to be dated very closely to 1550 and several figures of clothing of the North Rhine do appear to reflect that date.

A variety of headgear is also found on noble women of the region including Anne her self.

Perhaps lending more credence to the Bruyn attribution is the particular shape of her headgear under the flat cap, this is of a particular construction found in portraits from Cologne but is different to the construction of Anne’s headdress in her Holbein portraits.

A double layer of jewels is only found on the Bernal/Rosenbach portrait and a single figure in the Codice de Trajes. This probably reflects the relative scarcity of art of the nobility of the region given how expensive it would be. This might reflect a limit enforced by sumptuary laws.

The construction of this style of headpieces include a supportive layer covering the ears, and so the back piece sits behind the ears.

These are found throughout the 16thC in Cologne. This is a relatively rare style in expensive materials, but is the default shape for linen, the shapes change over time to adjust to changing fashions.

While this shape is very recognisable from the entire Bruyn body of works, it is less recognised outside of the region.

None of the other portraits attributed to Bruyn reflect this construction and layers, they simply remove the cap in an attempt to turn it into the style as shown in the Holbein portraits. However they are unconvincing as the cap doesn’t show the rigidity and hollow nature of this style, nor do they understand how the very solid strip of jewels would sit over each other.

Courtly fashion influences

Her spiral paned sleeves appear to be after the Hapsburg Court fashion and the tapering of the panes into her wrist is very carefully rendered with natural wripples in the fabric realistically depicted. These features, as well as the depiction of them, can be found in portraits from Bavaria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland.

a) 1533 Maria Jacobäa, Duchess of Bavaria, by Barthel Beham, b) 1530 Maria Jacobäa, Duchess of Bavaria, by Barthel Beham, c) Anna Hradecká, Prague, c) 1553 Barbara Radziwiłł, queen of Poland, d) 1553 Elizabeth of Austria, Queen of Poland (daughter of Anna Jagellonica.)

Clothing acts to express our identity including our aspirations and alliances. And Anne’s clothing is no different. Barthyl Bruyn as a the premiere artist of the North Rhine knew very well the differences and similarities between cities and environs of the North Rhine, he was very aware of the politics around him.

If this is the original, what does that then tell us about the copies? Please see “Anne of Cleves: copies of the Bruyn portrait.”


Catalog Number 1954.1923 Other Number P 3/23; 2004.0112 Collection Rosenbach Artist 2 Bruyn, Barthel the Elder (workshop) Title Anne of Cleves

[Códice de trajes], Dateentre 1500 y 1599? Call numberRes/285, RES/285PIDbdh0000052132

Land im Mittelpunkt der Mächte. Die Herzogtümer Jülich, Kleve, Berg. (Städtisches Museum Haus Koekkoek Kleve 1984, Stadtmuseum Düsseldorf 1985).Published by Boss-Verlag, Kleve (1985) ISBN 10: 3922384463 ISBN 13: 9783922384465

Anne of Cleves: Fourth Wife of Henry VIII, Mary Saaler, Rubicon Press, 1995, ISBN 0948695412, 9780948695414

A Portrait of Anne of Cleves (pp. 172-175) The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 134, No. 1068, Mar., 1992, Published by: Burlington Magazine Publications Ltd.

Barthel Bruyn der Aeltere als Bildnismaler, Volume 35 of Kunstwissenschaftliche Studien, Hildegard Westhoff-Krummacher, Bartholomäus Bruyn, Dt. Kunstverl., 1965