Cover: Anne of Cleves
The discarded bride

In with a chance to become the fourth Queen of England, Anne of Cleves could have saved herself a whole heap of bother had Facebook  existed in her day.

For starters she could have cut out the middleman artist, posted her own selfie and just sat back and waited for King Henry VIII to take one of three possible actions: click like, make a comment such as “LOL”, or unfriend her on the spot (today’s equivalent of beheading).

But no, in the 16th century you had to go and get your portrait painted. Pity the poor artist, Hans Holbein the Younger, caught between his plain subject, an out of control King and a punishing time frame.

But Henry was quite taken with the portrait. It was Anne of Cleves herself whom he loathed on sight. Referring to her as ‘that Flanders mare’, he is reputed to have claimed she did not look English enough. And if you want to know what that means, read The English Face – which Oscar Wilde dismissed in just  four words (the face that is, not the book):

Once seen, never remembered

The Royal marriage was never consummated and was finally annulled. But the portrait lives on, as portraits tend to do.

Cover: A Face to the World
Your own self portrait may not look as good as this!

There is so much human drama in this little bit of history and whichever part of it piques your interest, the library has the book for you: books on portraits, King Henry VIII and social networking.

You may even be tempted to paint a self portrait. Be warned though that nothing will drive you to substance abuse faster than attempting to make a painting of  yourself, cutting as it does to the core of the disparity between how you think you look and what the rest of the world may actually be seeing.

But my absolute favourite book of faces is a book on moko tattoos called The Blue Privilege – The Last Tattooed Maori Women : Te Kuia Moko  by Harry Sangl. This art book is rare for me, in that I devoured all the paintings with my eyes and read every word with my heart. It truly is a taonga.

And were it ever to crop up on facebook, I’d go the whole hog: like, comment and share.

7 thoughts on “Facebooks

  1. Helen Clare 25 July 2013 / 10:00 am

    Ah yes, Anne of Cleves and the huge unfairness! Loved reading about her in Mavis Cheek’s excellent novel Amenable Women. I thoroughly recommend it.

    • robertafsmith 25 July 2013 / 10:47 am

      I’ve just bought it for my Book Club. Can’t wait to read it!

  2. Vanessaccl 25 July 2013 / 10:14 am

    Agree, poor maligned Anne of Cleves! But she was clever enough to save her own neck and indeed managed to live on in England quite comfortably.

    • Helen Clare 25 July 2013 / 10:36 am

      That’s so true. She was the luckiest wife of all!

  3. Allison Broster 25 July 2013 / 11:35 pm

    “Once seen, never remembered.” Oh Oscar, you do have a way with words!

    • robertafsmith 26 July 2013 / 7:38 am

      I know, makes you wonder:Why didn’t I think of that!

  4. bibliobishi 26 July 2013 / 10:45 am

    Very clever Roberta. I often wondered how you started, let alone finished your blogs…..

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