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Sir Francis Walsingham

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Sir Francis Walsingham

by Unknown artist
oil on panel, circa 1585
14 3/4 in. x 11 3/4 in. (375 mm x 298 mm)
Purchased, 1913
Primary Collection
NPG 1704

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

This portraitback to top

This portrait is a reversed version of the only known portrait type of Walsingham, which is associated with the artist John de Critz the Elder, who received extensive patronage from Walsingham in the 1580s. Although Walsingham, or the individual who commissioned this portrait, would probably have been unaware of it, technical analysis has shown that this panel has been reused. Investigations have revealed the fascinating juxtaposition of a portrait of the Protestant spymaster superimposed over a small devotional image of the Virgin and Child. In x-ray two figures can be seen beneath the portrait, one figure is likely to be the Virgin Mary, possibly with the infant Christ in her lap; the second figure could be St. Joseph or an angel.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Cooper, Tarnya, Elizabeth I & Her People, 2013 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 10 October 2013 - 5 January 2014), p. 209
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 640
  • Strong, Roy, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 1969, p. 321

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Subjects & Themesback to top

Events of 1585back to top

Current affairs

Anglo-Dutch treaty of alliance against Spain is signed at Nonsuch Palace.
Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester arrives in the Netherlands with 7,000 soldiers to fight for the Dutch Protestant cause and is appointed Governor-General of the Netherlands.
An expedition, funded by Sir Walter Ralegh and led by his cousin, Sir Richard Grenville, establishes an ill-fated colony on Roanoke Island. The area is named Virginia after Queen Elizabeth I.

Art and science

Miniature of Sir Walter Ralegh is painted by Nicholas Hilliard at about this time.
The publisher Robert Waldegrave is imprisoned for printing Puritan books.
The explorer John Davis discovers the strait named after him between Greenland and Canada while searching for the Northwest Passage to the Far East.


Henry III of France bows to pressure from the militant Catholic Henry, Duke of Guise to sign the Treaty of Nemours, which revokes all toleration of Huguenots. Opposition to the legal heir to the crown, the Protestant Henry of Navarre provokes the final French War of Religion.
Sack of Antwerp by Alessandro Farnese, Duke of Parma, the Hapsburg Governor of the Netherlands. The city's pre-eminence as a centre of international commerce is lost to Amsterdam.

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