The Victoria and Albert Museum has acquired the earliest depiction of Henry VIII’s lost palace of Nonsuch has now been saved for the nation, following a temporary export ban. 

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Nonsuch palace from the South, Joris Hoefnagel, 1568. (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London. 

This detailed depiction of Henry VIII’s famed lost palace of Nonsuch that once stood in Cheam, Surrey is a signed and dated watercolour by Flemish painter Joris Hoefnagel.

The painting was purchased by the Victoria and Albert Museum with the help of the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) and the Art Fund. This watercolour is the most faithful of only six surviving depictions of the palace and is on display at the museum now.

Commissioned by Henry VIII in 1538, Nonsuch Palace featured a towered façade decorated with elaborate plasterwork in a Franco-Italianate style sought to rival Fontainebleau, the residence of Henry’s arch competitor, the French king François I.

While it was still unfinished at the King’s death in 1547, the palace was purchased from Mary I in 1557 by Henry Fitzalan, 12th Earl of Arundel (1512-80), who completed the palace and most likely commissioned Hoefnagel’s watercolour.

Mark Evans, Senior Curator of Word and Image at the V&A, said: “Painted in 1568 by the last of the great Flemish illuminators and a foremost topographical artist of the day, this is a rare and beautiful work of outstanding importance. Among the earliest surviving English landscape watercolours, it brings to life one of the greatest monuments of the English Renaissance, now lost to us. We are delighted to acquire a picture of such quality and historical importance for our visitors to enjoy.”

The watercolour is now on display at the V&A in the British Galleries section. 

 

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