Sir Walter Ralegh (Raleigh)
1 portrait on display in Room 2 at the National Portrait Gallery
Sir Walter Ralegh (Raleigh)
by Unknown English artist
oil on panel, 1588
36 in. x 29 3/8 in. (914 mm x 746 mm)
Sitterback to top
- Sir Walter Ralegh (1554-1618), Soldier, sailor, poet and writer. Sitter in 48 portraits.
This portraitback to top
Painted in the year of the attack by the Spanish Armada, this is one of the few contemporary portraits of Sir Walter Ralegh in his prime. Ralegh's dramatic costume is lavishly embellished with pearls, symbols of purity much favoured by Elizabeth I. The pearls on his cloak form the rays of a 'sun-in-splendour', a common heraldic device. Research and conservation has revealed a patch of wavy water beneath the crescent moon. Symbolic of Elizabeth I as the moon goddess Cynthia, the motif is also found in Ralegh's poetry, and indicates his willingness to be controlled by the queen as the moon controls the tides. The Latin inscription on the left is 'AMOR ET VIRTUTE' ('By love and virtue') and on the right 'AETATIS SVAE 34 / ANo 1588' ('sitter's age (34) and date of portrait (1588)'). Conserved through the generosity of the Woodmansterne Art Conservation Awards 2013.
Linked publicationsback to top
- National Portrait Gallery: 100 Portraits, p. 25
- Charles Nicholl, Shakespeare and his Contemporaries, 2015, p. 121
- Clare Gittings, The National Portrait Gallery Book of Elizabeth I, 2006, p. 23
- Cooper, Tarnya; Fraser, Antonia (foreword), A Guide to Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 2012, p. 22
- MacLeod, Catherine, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery Collection at Montacute House, 1999, p. 17
- Nicholl, Charles, Character Sketches: Elizabethan Writers, 1997, p. 48
- Nicholl, Charles, Insights: Shakespeare and His Contemporaries, 2005, p. 96
- Ribeiro, Aileen, The Gallery of Fashion, 2000, p. 57
- Ribeiro, Aileen; Blackman, Cally, A Portrait of Fashion: Six Centuries of Dress at the National Portrait Gallery, 2015, p. 63
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 511
- Tarnya Cooper, Elizabeth I & Her People, 2013 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 10 October 2013 - 5 January 2014), p. 92
- Tarnya Cooper, Elizabeth I & Her People, 2013 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 10 October 2013 - 5 January 2014), p. 93
- Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 54
Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top
- Elizabeth I and Her People (10 October 2013 - 5 January 2014)
Subjects & Themesback to top
Mediaback to top
Events of 1588back to top
Current affairsThe Spanish Armada sets sail for England from Lisbon but after a running battle up the Channel is met by English fire ships off Calais and destroyed. The remainder of the fleet is forced to flee. A huge thanksgiving service is held at St Paul's Cathedral to celebrate the victory.
Death of Queen Elizabeth I's favourite Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.
Art and scienceThe scientist and colonist Thomas Harriot publishes A Brief and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia, in which he claims that tobacco has medicinal properties.
Publication of William Morgan's Welsh translation of the Bible.
The playwright Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy is performed for the first time.
InternationalHenry III of France flees Paris after the militant catholic Henry, Duke of Guise is welcomed into the city. The King is forced to decree an end to all toleration of the Huguenots (French Protestants) and to annul the Protestant Henry of Navarre's right to the throne. The Duke of Guise is later assassinated on the orders of the King.
Abbas I became Shah of Persia. He will rule the Persian Empire until his death in 1629.
See this portrait
On display in Room 2 at the National Portrait Gallery
- Portrait of the Day: Anne Boleyn
8 December, 12:30
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Help us conserve a portrait of a female adventurer, poet and medical pioneer