Queen Elizabeth I
9 of 22 portraits on display in Room 2 at the National Portrait Gallery
Queen Elizabeth I
by Unknown continental artist
oil on panel, circa 1575
44 1/2 in. x 31 in. (1130 mm x 787 mm)
Sitterback to top
- Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603), Reigned 1558-1603. Sitter associated with 134 portraits.
This portraitback to top
One of the most important surviving images of Elizabeth I, this portrait was almost certainly painted from life, and the resulting pattern for the queen's face was to be repeated for the remainder of her reign. It is known as the 'Darnley portrait' after a previous owner. It shows Elizabeth looking cold, haughty and imperious, wearing a rather masculine doublet with a lace ruff collar, a double string of pearls looped around her neck and carrying an ostrich-feather fan. The portrait may have been painted by a Flemish artist, perhaps one visiting England for a short period. It is likely that it was commissioned by a courtier close to the queen, and it is possible that the pendant or the ostrich feather fan may have been a gift from that person. Behind her on a table lies her crown. It was an image that was much reproduced and is rather more lifelike than some of the later portraits which created the idea of an ageless Virgin Queen. Technical analysis has shown that the colours in this painting have faded over time. Elizabeth's now extremely pale complexion would have been much rosier, however, the red pigments in the flesh paint have faded over time. The golden brown pattern on her dress would originally have been crimson and gold.
Linked publicationsback to top
- National Portrait Gallery: 100 Portraits, p. 24
- 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)
- 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. 146
- Clare Gittings, The National Portrait Gallery Book of Elizabeth I, 2006, p. 16
- Cooper, John, A Guide to the National Portrait Gallery, 2009, p. 7
- Cooper, John, Great Britons: The Great Debate, 2002, p. 30
- Cooper, Tarnya, Searching for Shakespeare, 2006 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 2 March - 29 May 2006), p. 158
- Cooper, Tarnya, Searching for Shakespeare (hardback), 2006 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 2 March - 29 May 2006), p. 158
- Cooper, Tarnya; Fraser, Antonia (foreword), A Guide to Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 2012, p. 32
- Gibson, Robin, Treasures from the National Portrait Gallery, 1996, p. 37
- Parris, Matthew, Heroes and Villains: Scarfe at the National Portrait Gallery, 2003 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 30 September 2003 to 4 April 2004), p. 26
- Piper, David, The English Face, 1992, p. 50
- Ribeiro, Aileen, The Gallery of Fashion, 2000, p. 42
- Ribeiro, Aileen; Blackman, Cally, A Portrait of Fashion: Six Centuries of Dress at the National Portrait Gallery, 2015, p. 54
- Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery: An Illustrated Guide, 2000, p. 45
- Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery, 1997, p. 45
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 200
- Strong, Roy, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 1969, p. 102
- Tarnya Cooper, Elizabeth I & Her People, 2013 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 10 October 2013 - 5 January 2014), p. 64
- Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 51
Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top
Subjects & Themesback to top
Mediaback to top
Events of 1575back to top
Current affairsQueen Elizabeth I declines the offer of sovereignty of the Netherlands made by William of Orange, leader of the Dutch Protestant resistance to Spanish rule.
The royal favourite Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester hosts a lavish entertainment for the Queen at Kenilworth.
Art and scienceThe composers William Byrd and Thomas Tallis dedicate Cantiones Sacrae (Sacred Songs) to Queen Elizabeth I after receiving a royal patent for the exclusive right to publish music.
InternationalFacing bankruptcy, Philip II of Spain suspends all payments by the Spanish crown. Don Luis de Requesens can no longer pay his troops in the Netherlands.
Akbar, Mughal Emperor of India, conquers Bengal.
The Battle of Nagashino features the first decisive use of firearms in Japanese warfare.
See this portrait
On display in Room 2 at the National Portrait Gallery