Photo essay: Some Renaissance art and majesty from Cleveland Museum of Art’s The Tudors

Since the exhibit The Tudors: Art and Majesty in Renaissance England first opened in February at Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) has seen art lovers and anglophiles streaming in to view  the first exhibition in the United State to trace the transformation of the arts in Tudor England.

“The exhibition has been really well-received,” says Todd Mesek, the museum’s chief marketing office. “Attendance is ahead of our projections and it’s drawing both new visitors and people who haven’t been here in a while.”

There are only about two more weeks to catch The Tudors, though, as the exhibit closes on Sunday, May 14.

FreshWater’s managing photographer had the chance recently to view the exhibit and give our readers a peak into the scope of the finest artistic production of the English Renaissance—from intricately wrought armor and precious metal and porcelain objects, to glittering tapestries woven with gold and portraits of sumptuously attired courtiers.

Though the Tudor dynasty ruled for only three generations over the course of 118 years, it oversaw the transformation of England from an impoverished backwater to a major European power operating on a global stage.

The Tudors' investment in artistic patronage legitimized and promoted a series of tumultuous reigns. A vast network of celebrated foreign artists helped the Tudors compete on an international scale, and the exhibition features more than 90 loans from illustrious institutions.

Seven loans from the Royal Collection are from the soon-to-be-coronated King Charles.

“The Tudors are using art to prove they are legitimate rulers—at a time when they’re coming out of a civil war and just trying to hold the nation together,” observes Mesek. “When you look back and realize that this is the time when England is transitioning from a rural backwater into a political superpower, the role of the art is even more impressive.”

Mesek adds he particularly likes the big portraits of Henry VIII, Elizabeth and Mary Tudor.

“Art was the way the Tudors managed their image as well as a diplomatic tool—sometimes to demonstrate power and sometimes as grift,” he says. “You can see how they manage their images over time. The early portraits of Elizabeth use symbolism to demonstrate she’s open to marriage. Later, her portraits embrace the ‘Virgin Queen’ image, indicating that she’s not interested in sharing power with a man and sees her independence in the same light as England’s.”

Mesek points out that Henry’s early portrait shows an awkward teen, but later, he's depicted as a larger-than-life character. 

The exhibition is organized by CMA and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, in collaboration with the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Tickets are $15 for adults; $12 for seniors, students and children ages six to 17; children five and under and CMA members free. The CMA recommends reserving tickets through its online platform. Tickets can also be reserved by phone at (216) 421-7350 or on-site at one of the ticket desks. Exhibition tours are offered at 11:15 a.m. daily through May 14.

Bob Perkoski
Bob Perkoski

About the Author: Bob Perkoski

In addition to his work for Fresh Water, Bob Perkoski is the official photographer for LAND studio and Cleveland Burlesque. He recently published a book of his photos Rust Belt Burlesque. He's had work published in other books like LGBTQ Cleveland by Ken Schneck, Rust Belt Chic: The Cleveland AnthologyRust Belt Chic: The Pittsburgh Anthology and Moon Cleveland by Douglas Trattner. Previously he was co-founder/art director for Balanced Living Magazine. His substantial portfolio includes news coverage, portraiture, commercial imagery and fine art. Perkoski's first solo show, These Walks of Life premiered in December 2016 in Negative Space Gallery. Visit Perkoski Photography for complete profile information.
Originally from Conneaut, Ohio, Perkoski now lives close to the city in Parma. He has been Fresh Water's managing photographer since the publication's September 2010 inception.