Queen Elizabeth I

1 portrait on display in Room 3 at the National Portrait Gallery

Queen Elizabeth I, by Unknown English artist, circa 1560 - NPG 4449 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Queen Elizabeth I

by Unknown English artist
oil on panel, circa 1560
15 1/2 in. x 10 3/4 in. (394 mm x 273 mm)
Purchased, 1965
Primary Collection
NPG 4449


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

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This portrait was probably painted just after Elizabeth's accession. It has a formulaic quality that suggests it was not painted from the life. It was probably one of many versions executed to fulfil a demand for the queen's likeness in the early years of her reign when she was still expected to enter into marriage and before she became associated with the more complex emblems of virginity that are often found in later portraits. Recent technical analysis has shown that the background was originally a vibrant shade of blue which has discoloured to a yellowish brown over time. This is due to the presence of an unstable blue pigment called 'smalt'. The inscription 'ELIZABETH REGINA' would therefore have originally stood out more clearly against the background. The Queen's features have been sketched out over a pale pink ground and then painted over in one thin layer. Some of the under drawing is still just visible beneath the paint layer. It may have hung originally as part of a group of royal portraits acting as a painted record of English monarchy.

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