Susannah Hornebolt

Susanna(h) Hornebolt or Horenbout[nb 1] (1503–c.1554[3]) was the first known female artist in England[4] and the Tudor dynasty.[5] The daughter of Flemish artist Gerard Hornebolt and sister of Lucas Horenbout,[3] Susannah learned to paint with her father. She gained recognition in Europe in 1521 when Albrecht Dürer bought her illumination, The Savior.

Susanna Hornebolt
Diedc. 1554 (aged 50–51)
NationalityFlanders (born) - England (1522 +)
Known forPortrait miniature, illuminations
Notable workIllumination, The Savior
Spouse(s)John Parker, John Gilman

She came to England, as did Lucas, her father, and mother, Margaret Svanders Hornebolt. (The family name was anglicised to Hornebolt in 1534). She was a gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber for Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Parr and perhaps Queen Mary. She was reputedly an artist for Henry VIII and his court. Hornebolt married John Parker and after his death married John Gilman.[3][6]

Her work has been admired by contemporary artists Albrecht Dürer, Guicciardini and Vasari.


Early life and art in GhentEdit

Albrecht Dürer, self-portrait, 1506. Dürer bought Hornebolt's illumination of The Savior in 1521.

Hornebolt was an illuminator, and daughter of Gerard Hornebolt and Margaret Svanders, who was the daughter of Derick Svanders and widow of Jan van Heerweghe. Susanna Horenbolt was related to Lucas Horenbout.[6][7][8][nb 2] She started working for her father starting in 1520,[10] and by 1521 she was known as a miniature painter and illuminator on the European continent.[1] It was during that year that Albrecht Dürer bought an illumination that she had made of The Saviour when she was in Antwerp with her father. Guicciardini and Vasari "extol her excellence" as an illuminator.[7] Guiccidardini wrote in 1567 that her "excellence in painting, particularly in the art of miniatures and illumination, was 'beyond believing'." In 1568 Vasari wrote that "she was one of a handful of Flemish women who had distinguished themselves by the excellence of their art."[11]

The Hornebolt family, associated with the Ghent-Bruges school of manuscript illumination, was brought to England by Henry VIII to create portrait miniatures like the religious illuminations to "represent God's approval of the Tudors as England's ruling family."[5]

Jane Seymour's householdEdit

She then came to England with her parents, Gerard and Margaret Hornebolt,[7] in 1522 and was a gentlewoman attendant to Jane Seymour and an artist for Henry VIII's court. Jane Seymour died in 1537.[12]

Marriage to ParkerEdit

Around 1525 or 1526 she was married to John Parker (c. 1493/4-September 1537), who was for Henry VIII a Keeper of the Palace of Westminster, Yeoman of the King's Crossbows, and later Yeoman of the King's Robes.[6][12] He had houses at King's Langley in Hertfordshire and Fulham in London.[12] Henry VIII gave the "gentlewoman of the court" and her husband a gilt cup with cover and gilt spoons for the 1532 and 1533 New Years.[5] In 1534 miniature portraits were made of them by Hans Holbein the Younger,[13] which may be titled A Court Official of King Henry VIII and his wife and held in Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum. They had no children. Parker died in 1537.[1][12] With the loss of both Jane Seymour and her husband, she lost her means of support. and by 1538 had "serious financial difficulties."[1]

Marriage to Gilman and Queen's privy chamberEdit

Hans Holbein the Younger, Betrothal portrait of Anne of Cleves, about 1539. It was Holbein who painted Hornebolt and husband John Parker's miniature portrait. Hornebolt was appointed a gentlewoman attendant in Anne of Cleve's household by Henry VIII.

She married widower John Gilman or Gylmyn (c.1503-1558) on September 22, 1539 in Westminster at St. Margaret's Church. He had a daughter,[1] was a vintner's company freeman, and was, or was to become, Serjeant of the King's Woodyard.[6] She was the second of Gilman's three wives and gentlewoman attendant to Anne of Cleves.[14]

Two weeks after her marriage to Gilman,[1] she went to Cleves to escort Anne to England for her marriage on 6 January 1540 to Henry VIII. The king provided £40 so that Hornebolt could have a properly appointed wardrobe.[5][15] She was poor at that time and did not have the proper clothes for the stately visit.[15] The trip was to Cleves was led by Nicholas Wotton, dean of Canterbury, and included her husband, John Gilman.[5][16]

Hornebolt became a member of Queen Anne's privy chamber and was responsible for four servants.[15][17] The queen considered her the "first of her gentlewomen."[5]

The Gilmans lived in London, first in St. Bide's parish and then Richmond. They had two sons and two or more daughters.[12] About 1540 she and her husband had their first child, a son named Henry Gilman (1540-1593); Henry VIII was the boy's godfather.[12][18] Henry of Twicknam married Isabell West, daughter of Thomas West. Hornebolt also had a daughter named Anne (born about 1541 to 1542).[12][19] Hornebolt served in the household of Catherine Parr until Edward VI's reign, which began in 1547. In June of that year Hornebolt and her husband brought a case to the Court of Requests against John Parker's heirs.[5][12] She may have served under Queen Mary, from who she is noted to have received 2 yards of black satin.[5]

She died in 1545[7] or in the 1550s,[5] but by 1554 when Gilman married for the third time.[12][nb 3]

Artist in EnglandEdit

According to James Lees-Milne, Hornebolt worked for the king as a "clever illuminator" and had competition from another woman, the daughter of manuscript illuminator Simon Bening, Levina Teerlinc of Bruges,[9][nb 4] who was 10 or more years younger than Hornebolt.[5] J.D. Mackie, author of The Earlier Tudors, 1485-1558 submits that portraits and miniatures of the king were likely made by Gerard, Lucas, and Susannah.[2][nb 5] "This Susanna Hornbaud is stated to have practised painting in miniature in England and with greatest success, being much patronised by Henry the Eighth and all the Court," said The Society of Antiquaries of London.[20] She was described by authors Lorne Campbell and Susan Foister as "an excellent painter and illuminator, who had found the highest favour at the court of Henry VIII in England.[21] Catherine Parr was said to have employed three women miniature painters and these were Susannah Hornebolt, Levina Teerlinc and Margaret Holsewyther.[22]

In historical fictionEdit

Susanna Horenbout and John Parker are the protagonists in a series of historical fiction novels by Michelle Diener, first published in 2011. Horenbout is portrayed as a "one part skilled painter and two parts damsel in distress",[23] later developing into "a more active heroine".[24]


  1. ^ Other alternate spellings include Hornebaud, Horenbout, Hoorenbault, and Horebout.[1] The family name was anglicized in 1534 in a patent of denization as Hornebolt.[2]
  2. ^ She may have been sister to a Gerard and either the daughter or sister of Lucas.[9] Gerard called her his sister when praising her work; It is likely, based upon the periods of time that they worked for Henry VIII, that Lucas and Gerard are cousins or brothers.[7]
  3. ^ She is said to have died in Worcester and an account states that she was wife of a sculptor called Worsley[7][20] or Whorstly.[4] One Worsley is mentioned in the list of the royal household, and she may have married him after Parker's death,[7] except that Hornebolte was the second of John Gilman's wives.[14] After Susanna's death, Gilman married a woman named Ellen, who proved his will.[17]
  4. ^ Teerlinc received a salary from King Edward and was appreciated by Queen Elizabeth.[9]
  5. ^ Kathy Lee Emerson, author of Wives and Daughters: The Women of Sixteenth Century England contends that Hornebolt only had a reputation as a working artist on the European continent.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Kathy Lynn Emerson, Wives and Daughters: The Women of Sixteenth Century England. Troy, NY: Whitston, 1984. p. 113.
  2. ^ a b J. D. Mackie, The Earlier Tudors, 1485-1558. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1952. p. 599.
  3. ^ a b c Foister, Susan (2004). "Horenbout [Hornebolt], Gerard (d. 1540/41)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/13797. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  4. ^ a b British Women's History Timeline, (Helena Wojtczak). Accessed 2 December 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Susan Frye. Pens and Needles: Women's Textualities in Early Modern England. University of Pennsylvania Press; 29 November 2011. ISBN 0-8122-0698-3. p. 78–79.
  6. ^ a b c d Campbell, Lorne; Foister, Susan (October 1986). "Gerard, Lucas and Susanna Horenbout". The Burlington Magazine. Special Issue Devoted to British Art from 1500 to the Present Day. 128 (1003): 719–727.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g   This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainLionel Henry Cust (1891). "Hornebolt, Gerard". In Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 27. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 365–366.
  8. ^ James Thorne. Handbook to the Environs of London: Alphabetically Arranged, Containing an Account of Every Town and Village, and of All Places of Interest, Within a Circle of Twenty Miles Round London. John Murray; 1876. p. 220.
  9. ^ a b c James Lees-Milne, Tudor Renaissance London: Batsford, 1951). p. 67.
  10. ^ Diana Maury Robin; Anne R. Larsen; Carole Levin. Encyclopedia of Women in the Renaissance: Italy, France, and England. ABC-CLIO; 2007. ISBN 978-1-85109-772-2. p. 31.
  11. ^ Susan E. James. The Feminine Dynamic in English Art, 1485-1603: Women As Consumers, Patrons and Painters. Ashgate Publishing Company; 2009. ISBN 978-0-7546-6381-2. p. 242, 263.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i A Who's Who of Tudor Women. Archived 26 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine Kate Emerson Historicals. Retrieved January 29, 2014.
  13. ^ The Mentor. Mentor Association, Incorporated; 1921. p. 37.
  14. ^ a b Anita Hewerdine. The Yeomen of the Guard and the Early Tudors: The Formation of a Royal Bodyguard. I.B.Tauris; 15 June 2012. ISBN 978-1-84885-983-8. p. 184.
  15. ^ a b c Retha M. Warnicke. The Marrying of Anne of Cleves: Royal Protocol in Early Modern England. Cambridge University Press; 13 April 2000. ISBN 978-0-521-77037-8. p. 111, 116, 124.
  16. ^ Alexander William Gillman. Searches Into the History of the Gillman Or Gilman Family: Including the Various Branches in England, Ireland, America and Belgium. E. Stock; 1895. p. 52.
  17. ^ a b Alexander William Gillman. Searches Into the History of the Gillman Or Gilman Family: Including the Various Branches in England, Ireland, America and Belgium. E. Stock; 1895. p. 32.
  18. ^ Alexander William Gillman. Searches Into the History of the Gillman Or Gilman Family: Including the Various Branches in England, Ireland, America and Belgium. E. Stock; 1895. pp. 4, 32.
  19. ^ Alexander William Gillman. Searches Into the History of the Gillman Or Gilman Family: Including the Various Branches in England, Ireland, America and Belgium. E. Stock; 1895. p. 33.
  20. ^ a b Society of Antiquaries of London. Archaeologia, or, Miscellaneous tracts relating to antiquity. The Society; 1863. p. 29.
  21. ^ Delia Gaze. Dictionary of Women Artists. Taylor & Francis; 1997. ISBN 978-1-884964-21-3. p. 42.
  22. ^ James, Susan E. (1 January 2018). Maes, Hans (ed.). "Lady jane grey or queen kateryn parr? National portrait gallery painting 6804: Analysis and historical context". Cogent Arts & Humanities. 5 (1): 1533368. doi:10.1080/23311983.2018.1533368. ISSN 2331-1983.
  23. ^ "In a Treacherous Court". Publishers Weekly. 27 June 2011. Retrieved 2 December 2013.
  24. ^ "Keeper of the King's Secrets". Publishers Weekly. 6 February 2012. Retrieved 2 December 2013.

Further readingEdit

  • Susan E. James. The Feminine Dynamic in English Art, 1485-1603: Women As Consumers, Patrons and Painters. Ashgate Publishing Company; 2009. ISBN 978-0-7546-6381-2. p. 242-244, 263.