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For the first time in nearly 500 years, a pair of portraits of King Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, will be hung together. Officials from the National Portrait Gallery in London spotted the rare, early portrait of Catherine while on a research visit to Lambeth Palace, the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

While the sitter in the Palace’s portrait was originally believed to be Henry VIII’s last wife, Catherine Parr, the National Portrait Gallery’s conservation and curatorial experts noticed that the facial features, costume, and the painting’s frame suggested that the portrait was actually of Catherine of Aragon. Lambeth Palace officials agreed to loan the painting of Catherine of Aragon to the National Portrait Gallery where it has been researched extensively and has undergone conservation treatment before being displayed starting today, January 25, 2013. Technical analysis of the painting and frame, which included x-ray and raking light, revealed links between the Lambeth portrait and the Gallery’s portrait of Henry VIII from around 1520, supporting the belief that the sitter was in fact Catherine of Aragon.

Dr. Charlotte Bolland, Project Curator at the National Portrait Gallery, said, “It is wonderful to have the opportunity to display this important early portrait of Catherine of Aragon at the Gallery. Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon were married for nearly 24 years and during that time their portrait would have been displayed together in this fashion, as king and queen of England.”

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