1534 1ST BREXIT

Acrylic on canvas
60 x 50 cm

In 1534 Parliament passed the Act of Supremacy declaring King Henry VIII and his successors as the Supreme Head of the Church, replacing the Pope. There were a number of reasons for this Act, but primarily the need for a male heir to the throne. Henry tried for years to obtain an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, and he had convinced himself that God was punishing him for marrying his brother's widow. The then reigning Pope Clement VII refused to grant the annulment because, according to Roman Catholic teaching, a validly contracted marriage is indivisible until death. But Clement died the following year and a new Pope had to be elected. Pope Paul III, who was born Alessandro Farnese, became Pontiff in 1534 and took on the job of organising the Counter Reformation. When it became clear Henry was intent on demolishing the Catholic Church in England, Paul III issued the original papal bull - edict - drawn up by Clement VII. King Henry in his own words: ‘I don’t want my rights to marry who I wish to be decided by a foreign court’. The Roman Catholic church of the time looks very much like the European Union of today - an international body with its own body of law, general assembly, and elected head. The resemblances are quite striking. The whole point of the talk is Henry’s decision to break with the Continent, took England in a very different direction. For 500 years, Great Britain’s propaganda boomed out that Britain was different, separate, and renowned for doing things the British way. Resulting eventually in the creation of the formidable British Empire. When the modern Brexit referendum took place in 2016, Henry VIII won again.  In this painting, Harti was strongly influenced by Hans Holbein the Younger rendition of the King. As for Pope Paul III Harti used as a basis, Titian’s masterful execution of the Pontifex. To our surprise we find that King Henry’s hat has been flipped as a new historic marker, and to give this momentous occasion its very own gravity, albeit only in the form of a simulation of the original act. Are we not all living in a simulation, right? Baudrillard would approve. Paul III is showing King Henry the cold shoulder, albeit his eyes express humiliation for what happened under his watch. Yes, the ghost of Brexit perturbed profoundly the Pope’s sleep, even until his death. Our Pop-Art lady represents the collective subconscious that feels sad, as she knows that this crack in the Christian bastion, will be just the end of a turbulent beginning. Yes, this was the Period of the Counter-Reformation. Good luck Alessandro Farnese.


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