Queen Elizabeth I
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)
Sitterback to top
- Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603), Reigned 1558-1603. Sitter associated with 135 portraits.
This portraitback to top
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.
Linked publicationsback to top
- Bolland, Charlotte; Cooper, Tarnya, The Real Tudors: Kings and Queens Rediscovered, 2014 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 12th September 2014 to 1st March 2015), p. 138
- Clare Gittings, The National Portrait Gallery Book of Elizabeth I, 2006, p. 7
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 200
- Strong, Roy, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 1969, p. 100
Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top
Subjects & Themesback to top
Events of 1560back to top
Current affairsTreaty of Edinburgh between England, France and Scotland. France removes forces from Scotland and Mary, Queen of Scots abandons her claim to the English crown.
An independent Scottish Parliament is established in Edinburgh, which in turn establishes the Church of Scotland. Influenced by the Protestant reformer John Knox, the reformed church abolishes papal authority in Scotland.
Art and sciencePublication of Jing P'Ing Mei (The Plum in the Golden Vase) by Hsu Wei, the first socially realistic Chinese novel.
InternationalDeath of Francis II of France. He is succeeded by his brother Charles IX with his mother, Catherine de Medici, as Regent. His widow, Mary, Queen of Scots, returns to Scotland the following year.
Akbar, Mughal Emperor of India, establishes a new capital at Agra.
Listen to a series of podcasts exploring the lives of pioneering women, past and present.
William Eggleston was closely associated with the alternative music scene in Memphis. Revisit our 2016 exhibition and listen to a special playlist.
Links to audio and transcripts of interviews with artists, sitters and historic recordings.
- Searching for Shakespeare
- Making History: Printed Portraiture in Tudor and Stuart Britain
- NPG D48090 in 360°
- Tudor Miniatures
- My Favourite Portrait by Fiona Shaw
- My Favourite Portrait by P.D. James
- Concealed and Revealed: The Changing Faces of Elizabeth I
- Hidden: Unseen Paintings Beneath Tudor Portraits
- Kings and Queens: A Family tree
- Tudor pick up guides
- Who do you think you were?
- Tudor and Elizabethan matching pairs
- Queen Elizabeth I by Nicholas Hilliard
- On panel making and the post-1600 Holbein panels
- The Conservation of the portrait of John Donne
- Director's Trail by Nicholas Cullinan
- Recent acquisition: John Donne
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