Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

The Apotheosis of Henry VIII

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1546 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Pyte, Robert (maker)
    Pytt, Robert

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Pen and ink and wash on vellum

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level C, case TST

Object Type
This highly finished drawing may have been a preparatory design for an engraving (an image made by cutting lines into the surface of a flat piece of metal, inking the plate and then transferring the ink held in the lines on to a sheet of paper), but this is not certain. Some think that it was a design for an arch for a triumphal procession, though there is little evidence for this. The meaning of the subject is uncertain, though it seems to be an allegory referring to Henry VIII (1509-1547) during the last years of his reign. It is clear, however, that the artist, Robert Pyte (died about 1552), was familiar with the classical-influenced work of the Italian architect and theorist Sebastiano Serlio (1475-about 1553 or 1555). The frieze of the second storey and the panelled attic storey above it are directly copied from folio 62v of Book IV of Serlio's treatise on architecture, which was first published in 1537.

Materials & Making
The design is drawn in pen and ink with wash on vellum, which is a fine parchment prepared from the skin of calf, kid or lamb. Vellum was commonly used in Britain at this time, although it was being surpassed by the use of paper. Made from wood pulp, paper was better for printing uses and cheaper than vellum.

The drawing is inscribed 'Robertus Pyte' and bears the monogram 'IS'. This is probably Robert Pyte, who was an engraver to the Royal Mint from the early 1540s. He was chief engraver from 1550 until his death in 1552.

Physical description

Pen and ink and wash drawing on vellum

Place of Origin

England (made)


ca. 1546 (made)


Pyte, Robert (maker)
Pytt, Robert

Materials and Techniques

Pen and ink and wash on vellum

Marks and inscriptions

'Robertus Pyte'
Maker's identification; signed; ink


Height: 67.9 cm, Width: 45.1 cm

Object history note

Probably designed and drawn in England by Robert Pyte (died about 1552)

Descriptive line

Henry VIII in the setting of a triumphal arch, representing the apotheosis of Henry VIII, design for an engraving, probably designed and drawn in England by Robert Pyte, ca. 1546

Labels and date

British Galleries:
The exact purpose of this highly finished drawing is unknown. It may record a temporary arch erected at court or it may be preparation for an engraving. Its details were based on the latest Italian architectural books. Inscriptions celebrate the King at the end of his reign as the all-powerful commander of church and state. [27/03/2003]

Subjects depicted

Ewers; Classicism; Columns; Figures; Sculpture; Fantastic architecture; Architecture; Arches; Putti


Drawings; Designs; Architecture


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.