Queen Elizabeth I

1 portrait of Queen Elizabeth I

Queen Elizabeth I, by Unknown artist, early 17th century with 18th century overpainting - NPG 542 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Queen Elizabeth I

by Unknown artist
oil on panel, early 17th century with 18th century overpainting
33 1/2 in. x 26 3/8 in. (851 mm x 670 mm)
Transferred from British Museum, 1879
Primary Collection
NPG 542


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

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The portrait of Elizabeth that can be seen at first glance was virtually all painted in the eighteenth century. Technical analysis has revealed that this image was painted over the top of an early seventeenth-century portrait, perhaps because of damage to the original portrait. Dendrochronology (tree-ring dating) indicates that the wood used for the panel was felled some time after 1604, just after the queen's death. Therefore the original portrait was posthumous, based on a pattern developed during Elizabeth's lifetime. The use of x-radiography has revealed that in the original portrait, the queen wore large decorative 'wings' wired out behind her back and a veil that fell down her back. This costume was particularly fashionable in the 1590s but must have been considered rather odd over a hundred years later and was painted out.

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