Queen Mary I
1 portrait on display in Room 2 at the National Portrait Gallery
- Tudor and Jacobean Portraits Database
Queen Mary I
by Hans Eworth
oil on panel, 1554
8 1/2 in. x 6 5/8 in. (216 mm x 169 mm)
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Key findings: Original dating and authorship confirmed. Analysis of the paint surface has revealed the artist's use of magnification to paint this portrait. The underdrawing indicates it derives from an established pattern.
Purchased from Sotheby's on 8th December 1972, the portrait shows Mary I as queen and was painted by Eworth following a sitting from the life in 1554. It is one of five versions by Eworth. The earliest known owner of the work was Lord Chesham of Latimer who sold it in 1928 to Mrs Cooper Hewitt, New York. Then it passed to Frederick R. Bay, New York and finally it came to Colonel C. M. Paul also of New York.
The pear-shaped pearl attached to the jewel on Mary's chest is probably 'La Peregrina' ('The Incomparable') a famous pearl of great size traditionally stated to have been given by Philip II to Mary in June 1554. Mary and Philip were married in July 1554.
Notes on likely authorship
The work is signed with the monogram 'HE' (top left corner) which is securely identified as Hans Eworth. The technique bears very strong similarity to the portrait of Lady Dacre and her son, the 10th Baron Dacre (NPG 6855).
All the known portraits of Mary I as queen probably result from two reported sittings in 1554 that produced two basic face masks. The first sitting was for Anthonis Mor and the second for Hans Eworth.
Commentary on condition, painting style, technique
The face and hair are much more abraded than anywhere else on the work and there are some small paint losses and retouched areas. The work is painted on a thin wooden panel which has been attached to another thin cradled panel as a repair. The original panel might have been cut slightly at the left edge because the signature is chipped.
The picture is very finely painted and the level of detail and modelling on the costume and in the features is exceptionally carefully painted. All of the work is very thinly painted apart from the highlights in lead-tin yellow or lead white, which are more thickly applied. Eworth's technique employs fine blending and a carefully managed transition between different parts of the composition. The handling of the paint indicates that the artist has used magnification.
The shadowing in the bodice is very simply created by leaving the paint thinner in highlighted areas, using the light priming beneath to act as the highlight, and darker paint was blended over this to create the modelling. The shadows on the raised collar and the white band on the headdress were achieved with a combed blending technique where black was finely dragged across the thin white priming and followed by a very thin application of white paint over the black. Smooth blending can be seen on the edge of the white collar where it meets the brown bodice - it is blended down over the brown, apparently by removing a little of the brown paint with a comb tool. The green background was applied after the figure was executed, though some details and contours were added at a final stage.
Justification for dating
The portrait is dated in tiny numerals at the top left. The date is not in doubt. The technique and materials in use are entirely consistent with a work from this period. The wooden panel could not be dated by dendrochronology.
Drawing and transfer technique
With infrared reflectography some black underdrawing is visible. The lines appear to follow a tracing and are in a liquid medium. Lines can be seen all around the face especially in the eyes, hands, nose and mouth. Underdrawing is also abundant in the collar, sleeves/cuffs, flower, necklace and pearl jewel. As the composition was painted in several versions, a careful pattern would have been produced. The underdrawing is quite different from that found on the large scale Society of Antiquaries version, but this is almost certainly the result of scale.
The changes made to the final composition by the artist evident from infrared analysis are as follows:
- the nose has been lowered a little
- the eyebrow on the left has been raised slightly
- further adjustments have been made to the outline of the jaw, chin, pearl and collar
- the line of the headdress has been raised between the drawing and painting stages.
Relevance to other known versions
Eworth painted a number of different versions of Mary I following the sitting from the life in 1554. Only the Society of Antiquaries and the National Portrait Gallery versions are dated 1554. All use the same face mask and headdress pattern. The resulting portraits were executed on various scales: life-size, small-scale and miniature.
The main other versions are:
- Society of Antiquaries, three-quarter-length life-size, hands clasped in front, highly patterned brown/red dress, dated 1554
- Duke of Buccleuch miniature c.1555
- Wynne Finch Collection, three-quarter-length
- Private collection, USA, dated 1557
There are also numerous later copies after Eworth's face pattern that show very slight variations in the appearance of the face.
Cooper, Tarnya, A Guide to Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 2008, p. 32
Strong, Roy, The English Icon: Elizabethan and Jacobean Portraiture, 1969, p.87 (No.24)
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Compare high-resolution images against the painting - mainly x-ray and infra-red photography images, but sometimes UV or raking light images - side by side with the ability to zoom in on details.
There are small chipped old paint losses in the signature and date. The paint surface is a little abraded in some parts, especially in the thinly painted face and hands. There are several cracks running across the background and the face, starting at an old paint loss at the upper-left edge. The paint surface along these cracks, and the crack across the bodice and sleeves has been restored.
Number of boards: 1
Panel Orientation: Horizontal
An examination of tree rings, which can help to provide the earliest possible felling dates for the wood used for the panel. The technique can also indicate the geographical origin of the wood.
Number of boards: 1
Last date of tree ring: n/a
It was not possible to undertake dendrochronology because the panel is encased in a modern support which prevents access to the board edges.
A technique used to identify changes in composition beneath the surface of the paint layers and to understand the physical structure of a panel or canvas.
The horizontal wood grain is evident in the original panel and the non-original wooden fillets around the edge. The cradle on the reverse is also clearly visible (see x-ray 01).
Broad, rapidly applied brushwork can be seen in the background. This has been applied using a dense, lead-containing paint, and is probably the grey underlayer beneath the green background.
A number of small damages can be seen in x-ray, in addition to two fine horizontal cracks. One of the cracks travels from the left edge into the picture plane across the sitter's face. The second crack travels across the panel from the left edge to the right, above the level of the sitter's wrists.
A technique used to observe the layers beneath the paint surface which can reveal underdrawing and changes to the initial design.
Extensive underdrawing can be seen in infrared reflectography, particularly in the face, hair, hands, collar, jewellery and rose (see IRR mosaic 01). The underdrawing is clearly visible on the surface through the thinly applied paint, defining the features and areas of shadow (see micro 01, micro 02 and micro 05). In the face, short drawn lines can be seen in areas of shadow along the jaw-line on the right, and the cheekbone. Although the transparency of the paint film will have undoubtedly increased with time, it appears that the relatively thick dark lines were intended to show through the surface, creating shadow and contour. This is particularly likely due to the thinness of the upper paint layers and the manner in which the luminosity of the ground and priming play an integral role in the overall appearance of the painting. In an area of damage in the white collar, a small amount of black underdrawing has been exposed where the paint layer has cleaved away from the surface (see micro 05).
Areas of drawing in the white collar, cuffs, hands and rose are sketchily marked, outlining the shapes and contours. The rose is particularly interesting, as it has been defined by a a number of fluidly drawn swirls, rather than distinct shapes or petals (micro 18).
On examination of the painting in infrared light, it is clear that many features are delineated by a number of joined lines, rather than a series of continuous, fluid marks. This is most clearly evident along the edge of the jawline on the right, the collar and knuckles on the left. It is apparent that marks of this type are characteristic of those made following a transfer process from an earlier drawing or painting. Having made a tracing from a previous model, the fine marks left on the ground or priming layer were then strengthened using a brush and wet medium. These lines may overlap or cross slightly where there has been a pause at the point in which the lines join (see the knuckles of the hand on the left). Underdrawing of this type can be contrasted with more continuous and fluid marks made during a freehand drawing process.
Changes to the composition/pentimenti
Small adjustments have been made to the outline of the nose (lowering it a little), and the eyebrow on the left (raising it by a few millimetres). Further adjustments have been made to the outline of the jaw, chin, pearl and collar. A reserve has been left around the hand on the right, although the underdrawing is positioned slightly higher than the reserve. The line of the headdress (at the edge of the white band and upper jewelled section) has been raised between the drawing and painting stages.
Investigation into microscopic pigment samples or samples of other media in order to help with dating, to reveal the order of the paint layers and help to understand the painting techniques used.
Paint samples were taken to analyse the pigments and layer structure of the painting in 2007. Previous samples had been taken by Catherine Hassall in 1990 .
Ground and preparation layers
The paint samples from both investigations confirm the presence of a thick chalk ground. Over this is a thin priming layer, composed mostly of lead white, but with some red particles, noted by Hassall, which are probably vermilion. The thin paint layers contrast with the much thicker ground layer.
The paint of the dress is a mixture of vermilion and brown earths, some black and small amounts of lead white, included in varying proportions to achieve the subtle modelling. Highlights are painted in almost pure vermilion.
Yellows: jewellery, cuffs and fringe in background
The bright yellow highlights and details of the jewellery and the cuffs is lead-tin yellow, while yellow ochre and what appears to have been an organic yellow (a lake), were employed for the darker orange/yellow hues.
The yellow on the fringe shows both yellow ochre and lead-tin yellow. The 2007 cross-section (sample 6) shows an orange coloured underlayer (yellow ochre) beneath the intense bright yellow over it (lead-tin yellow). The translucent green glaze of the background is under this decoration with the grey underlayer below. The lead-tin yellow paint used for the fringes in the background and at the lower edge has been applied with a higher proportion of the oil medium than that of the cuffs, so that it has a much more liquid and fluid appearance. The fluidity would have made it much easier for the painter to apply the long border fringes.
Green cloth background and ledge/table
Both the 1990 and 2007 analysis found that the green background and cloth are built up over the ground and priming with a grey underlayer (containing lead white and charcoal black) and a pure copper green glaze. In places Hassall found a scumble of verdigris mixed with lead-tin yellow over this glaze, and in others just the mixed green with no glaze. From this it was concluded that the scumble was applied to model the fabric.
Hassall's initial investigation found that the original glaze is missing at the edges and a glaze containing viridian (a nineteenth-century pigment) has been applied over the grey underlayer, which is restoration.
Dark grey background at left
This strip of background was sampled (in 2007) just below the date. This sample was found to be composed of red earth pigments, a little white, and dark brown/black.
An examination of the construction of paint layers, glazes and condition often using a microscope. This method provides important evidence concerning an artist’s technique and paint handling and can reveal a specific artist’s characteristic painting style.
Paint style and method
The paint has been very thinly applied throughout. The only exception to this can be seen in the strongest highlights and tassels on the lower and left-hand edge. Here a high proportion of lead white and/or lead-tin yellow has been used, creating an opaque and thicker paint film. The overall technique can be characterised by the use of very fine blending throughout.
Ground and Priming
The panel is prepared with a chalk ground. There is a white or very pale priming (see Paint sampling), which is used also as part of the modelling (see below).
The features are comprehensively underdrawn, and the thinness of the upper paint layers means that the dark underdrawn lines are seemingly deliberately visible, and serve to define the features throughout (see micro 01 and micro 02), and Infrared reflectography).
Paint layer structure
Hair and headdress
The hair has been very thinly applied, leaving the ground more exposed in areas of mid-tone, with further paint applied on top for depth of tone and shadow. Over the initial paint layers for the hair, lead-tin yellow highlights were applied for individual light hairs (see micro 17). The headdress was laid in with a very thin application of paint, particularly in the pearls. As in the hair, lead-tin yellow has been used for the highlights, particularly in the jewels.
Modelling: The modelling in the bodice was created with a very simple technique of applying a thin layer of paint over the ground in highlighted areas, with darker paint blended over to create shadow. In this and many other areas, the pale, luminous ground layer plays an integral role in the creation of variations in colour and tone. The effect of this technique is dependent on the thickness of the paint application on the ground and can be seen throughout the figure (see micro 16).
Blending technique: A technique of 'combing' dark paint across the white band in the headdress has been used to blend the two passages of colour (see micro 19). A similar 'combed' technique has been used to create shadow in the white collar, by dragging dark paint over the white (see micro 04). Where the edge of the white collar meets the brown bodice (on the left side of the painting), the artist has used the same comb tool to scrape away the wet brown bodice paint and blend the passages of paint together. This appears to have been carried out prior to the application of the white collar paint (see micro 04). This use of a comb-like tool has also been observed in other works examined during the course of the 2007 examination period (see NPG 4953, NPG 6855 and NPG 842).
Blue pigment: A very vivid blue pigment can be seen in the embroidered cuff on the right. Although there appears to be some restoration nearby, this blue is clearly smoothly blended wet-in-wet into the original white cuff paint (see micro 11).
A painted inscription 'HE' is present in the top left-hand corner (see micro 21). The date 1554 is painted below this in very small numbers.
Order of construction
- White chalk ground
- Very pale pink priming layer (see Paint sampling)
- Grey underlayer - beneath the green background, tablecloth and left edge, but not beneath the figure
- Flesh paint for face and hands
- White collar
- Green background - final details and contours added later.
- Headdress (black parts first, then white band, then jewels)
- Jewels around the neck - the pearls are very thinly applied over the pale ground (see micro 15)
- Strongest white on collar
Changes to composition/pentimenti
See Infrared reflectography.
Lead white, carbon black, vermilion, lead-tin yellow, yellow ochre, earth pigments, organic yellow lake (probably), verdigris, copper green glaze, ultramarine (possibly)
A method which helps to reveal past restoration and the extent of varnish layers.
The monogram and especially the date in the top left are much clearer in ultra violet than in normal light (see UV 01). Ultra violet light also shows areas of restoration, particularly along the mended split across the bodice and sleeve, and in the fine cracks in the face. The restoration in the face has been carefully done. There is a little restoration in other parts of the bodice.