Mary of Modena

1 portrait

Mary of Modena, by Willem Wissing, circa 1685 - NPG 214 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Mary of Modena

by Willem Wissing
oil on canvas, circa 1685
48 in. x 38 1/2 in. (1220 mm x 978 mm)
Purchased, 1866
Primary Collection
NPG 214

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Sitterback to top

  • Mary of Modena (1658-1718), Queen of James II. Sitter associated with 55 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Willem Wissing (1656-1687), Portrait painter. Artist associated with 146 portraits, Sitter in 3 portraits.

This portraitback to top

The only daughter of Alfonso IV, Duke of Modena, and a devout Roman Catholic, Mary intended to enter a convent until her marriage with James, Duke of York, (later James II), in 1673. This is one of a series of informal paintings that were based on the sittings by the royal couple for their coronation portraits. In the portrait Mary's left hand rests on a small dog which looks like an Italian greyhound, a reference to her homeland. The turn of the dog's head away from his mistress may be a device to suggest that his master is nearby.

Linked publicationsback to top

Events of 1685back to top

Current affairs

Charles II dies, his heir, Catholic brother, James II, succeeds to the throne. Despite deep distrust by many Protestants, he initially experiences unexpected popularity. James Scott, Duke of Monmouth, leads the Monmouth Rebellion ambitious to seize the throne. Following his defeat at Sedgemoor, Monmouth is executed at Tower Hill.

Art and science

Opera Universa, by physician Thomas Sydenham, considered the father of English medicine, is published in London. Organist, Henry Purcell composes, My heart is inditing, for the coronation of James II and his queen, Mary of Modena. Writer on dentistry, Charles Allen publishes the earliest known English book on dentistry.


The Edict of Fontainebleau is issued by Louis XIV revoking the Edict of Nantes which gave Huguenots a right to practice their religion, free from persecution. Although Huguenots had steadily left France since the Dragonnades in 1681, this edict essentially ended official religious toleration in France.

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