Queen Elizabeth I

1 portrait by Steven van Herwijck

Queen Elizabeth I, by Steven van Herwijck, 1565 - NPG 4294 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Queen Elizabeth I

by Steven van Herwijck
lead medal, 1565
1 7/8 in. (48 mm) diameter
Purchased, 1962
Primary Collection
NPG 4294

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Sitterback to top

  • Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603), Reigned 1558-1603. Sitter associated with 125 portraits.

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This cast lead medal of Queen Elizabeth I was found in a ploughed field at Great Moulton in Norfolk in 1962. It is the only known example of a medal which was the subject of a correspondence in 1565 between a Flemish poet and scholar, Charles Utenhove, and William Cecil, the Queen's Secretary, in which Utenhove seeks permission to produce a portrait medal of the Queen with an inscription in Greek on the reverse meaning 'divine fountain of the realm', with the Greek letters being an anagram of 'Elizabeth the Queen'. The reverse illustrates a fountain with a seated figure of Faith clasping a cross, and a view to a distant castle (symbolically the realm or seat of government). For information on the medal's political significance in Anglo-French relations, see Jan van Dorsten, 'Steven van Herwijck's Elizabeth (1565): A Franco-Flemish Political Medal', Burlington Magazine, vol.111, 1969, pp.143-7.

The medal is the work of Steven van Herwijck, a Dutch medallist and portraitist in London who produced several English portrait medals in the 1560s. It has a suspension hole indicating that it may have hung on a ribbon or loop of some kind. This could explain how it ended up in a field: if the loop broke and the wearer was unaware. For a discussion around the identity and work of the medallist, see Bendor Grosvenor, 'The identity of “the famous paynter Steven”: Not Steven van der Meulen but Steven van Herwijck', British Art Journal, vol.9, no.3, Spring 2009, pp.12-17.

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