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Anne of Denmark

2 of 49 portraits of Anne of Denmark

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Anne of Denmark

by Isaac Oliver
watercolour on vellum, circa 1612
2 in. x 1 5/8 in. (51 mm x 41 mm) oval
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, 1957
Primary Collection
NPG 4010


Short strokes of black paint are used to defi…
Detail of the jewelled 'S' with a crown pinne…
Detail of the blue and red rosette pinned to…
Isaac Oliver's monogram.

Sitterback to top

  • Anne of Denmark (1574-1619), Queen of James I. Sitter associated with 49 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Isaac Oliver (circa 1565-1617), Miniature painter. Artist associated with 72 portraits, Sitter in 5 portraits.

This portraitback to top

As Anne's official limner, Oliver painted numerous miniatures of her which were often intended as gifts. She spent lavishly on jewellery and was proud of her Danish ancestry; the crowned 'S' jewel probably refers to her mother, Sophia of Mecklenburg. Her jewelled locket may contain another miniature, perhaps of the intended recipient of this portrait.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Cannadine, Sir David (Introduction); Cooper, Tarnya; Stewart, Louise; MacGibbon, Rab; Cox, Paul; Peltz, Lucy; Moorhouse, Paul; Broadley, Rosie; Jascot-Gill, Sabina, Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits, 2018 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, USA, 7 October 2018 -3 February 2019. Bendigo Art Gallery, Australia, 16 March - 14 July 2019.), p. 115 Read entry

    Anne was an important patron of art at the Jacobean court and she appointed Isaac Oliver (c.1565-1617) as her official miniaturist. This miniature celebrates not only her beauty and grace, but also her wealth, represented by her magnificent jwels, and her pride in her Danish family, as signified by the S-shaped jewel, for her mother, Sophia.

  • MacLeod, Catharine (preface, appreciation) Wilks, Timothy (introduction) Smuts, Malcolm (appreciation) MacGibbon, Rab (appendix), The Lost Prince: The Life and Death of Henry Stuart, 2012 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 18 October 2012 to 13 January 2013), p. 55
  • MacLeod, Catharine; Rab, MacGibbon; Button, Victoria; Coombs, Katherine; Derbyshire, Alan, Elizabethan Treasures: Miniatures from Hilliard and Oliver, 2019 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 21 February - 19 May 2019), p. 183
  • Rogers, Malcolm, Master Drawings from the National Portrait Gallery, 1993 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 5 August to 23 October 1994), p. 23
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 14
  • Strong, Roy, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 1969, p. 8
  • Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 69 Read entry

    The daughter of Frederick II of Denmark, Anne married James VI of Scotland in 1589. Her early life with him appears to have been happy, although she involved herself in various unfortunate political manoeuvres, and suffered miscarriages. The removal of her eldest child, Prince Henry, shortly after his birth into the care of the Earl of Mar, however, created a rift between Anne and James. Six further children were born, although only Henry, Elizabeth and Charles (later King Charles I) lived beyond early childhood. After James’s accession to the English throne as King James I in 1603, Anne had much greater funds at her disposal, and she became one of the most important cultural patrons of her day, commissioning artists, writers, composers and choreographers, and collecting paintings.

    Anne appointed Isaac Oliver (c.1565–1617) as her limner, or miniature painter, in 1605. Oliver’s stippled, shadowed style reflected developments in European art, and Anne’s patronage of his work suggests that she preferred new, continental styles to more distinctively English portraiture. She is shown here wearing some of the many expensive pieces of jewellery in her collection, including a crowned ‘S’, probably for ‘Sophia’; Anne’s mother was Sophia of Mecklenburg.

  • Walker, Richard, Miniatures: 300 Years of the English Miniature, 1998, p. 22 Read entry

    Anne of Denmark married James VI and I in 1589. She was a staunch patron of the poet and dramatist Ben Jonson and of the architect and scholar Inigo Jones, and took part enthusiastically in the court masques, many of which were written and designed by these two. She was the mother of seven children, including Prince Henry, Prince Charles (later Charles I) and Elizabeth of Bohemia.

    Nicholas Hilliard continued, under King James I, as Royal Limner. Anne of Denmark also employed him but she preferred the work of Isaac Oliver, a younger man and a pupil of Hilliard, with a less archaic style, more in keeping with the full-scale portraiture of Daniel Mytens and Paul van Somer. Oliver delighted in the freedom of continental painting, specially in the use of strong shadows, in contrast to Hilliard's lack of such, which gave his sitters the semblance of abstract icons. He also favoured sombre colours, and theatrical devices such as, in this portrait, the hand outstretched on the Queen's bosom.

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1612back to top

Current affairs

Aged 18, Henry, Prince of Wales dies suddenly, probably from typhoid, sparking widespread mourning throughout the country, and abroad. James I's second son, Charles, becomes heir apparent.
Edward Wightman, a Baptist and alleged heretic, is the last person to be burnt at the stake in England.

Art and science

The literary world memorialises Henry, Prince of Wales after his death. Among those who lamented the loss of the popular prince were John Donne and Sir Walter Ralegh.
Thomas Shelton's English translation of the first half of Don Quixote is published, the first translation of the novel into any language.


The betrothal of James I's daughter, Princess Elizabeth, to Frederick, elector palatine, strengthens the Protestant union made between England and German princes under Frederick, concluded earlier in the year.
East India Company claims victory against the Portuguese in the Battle of Swally off the coast of Suvali, India.

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