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.
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.