This portrait of King John is perhaps the earliest such likeness, and was probably painted in the early 17th-century. John is portrayed wearing a jewelled crown and holding a sceptre in his right hand. He is dressed in a vivid red robe, with a green cloak draped around his shoulders; the portrait is identified by the words ‘JOHANNES REX’ in the upper left corner. The artist is unknown, but the portrait once hung at Hornby Castle in Yorkshire. It is possible to speculate that the painting of this portrait may have been influenced by early productions of William Shakespeare’s play, The Life and Death of King John, written in the 1590s and published in the First Folio of Shakespeare’s works (1623). It is unclear whether the slightly sinister appearance of John in this portrait, with its swivelling eyes, is deliberate. By this date, King John’s reputation was certainly on the wane.
- Article by:
- Dan Jones
- Medieval origins
When Magna Carta was created, England had endured 16 years of John’s kingship – a rule based largely on extortion, legal chicanery, blackmail and violence. Here Dan Jones discusses King John's infamous reign.