Imagined Lives: Mystery Portraits from the National Portrait Gallery, c.1540-1640

Past beyond the gallery archive
13 March 2010 - 31 October 2011

Montacute House

  • Partnership exhibition



Probably Sir Robert Dudley, by Unknown artist, 1590s - NPG  - © National Portrait Gallery, London

Probably Sir Robert Dudley
by Unknown artist
1590s
NPG 2613

This new display looks in detail at thirteen portraits from the National Portrait Gallery, of sitters whose identities were uncertain. All dating from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, these portraits were originally thought to depict famous people including Queen Elizabeth I and the young pretender to the throne Lady Arabella Stuart, but these identities have long since been questioned. Students undertaking a Masters degree course in Art History at the University of Bristol worked with the National Portrait Gallery curators to research these mysterious portraits in detail and this display presents their findings.

Inspired by these mystery portraits, internationally renowned authors John Banville, Tracy Chevalier, Julian Fellowes, Terry Pratchett, Sarah Singleton, Joanna Trollope and Minette Walters have imagined what the lives of these sitters might have been like. These fictional biographies and character sketches accompany the exhibition and can also be purchased together in a fully illustrated paperback available from Montacute House.

Imagined Lives lecture series

Further information from the display:
Conservation and Restoration
Extract from stories
Researching Early British Portraiture
Understanding history of ownership

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