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Queen Mary I

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Queen Mary I, by Unknown artist, 1597-1618 - NPG 4980(16) - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Tudor and Jacobean Portraits Database

Queen Mary I

by Unknown artist
oil on panel, 1597-1618
22 1/2 in. x 17 3/4 in. (572 mm x 451 mm)
NPG 4980(16)


The portrait set is the product of a number of workshops; within this set, this portrait is linked to the portraits of Henry VII and Henry VIII.

This portrait is part of a set of sixteen portraits of English kings and queens. The set was previously at Hornby Castle near Bedale, the North Yorkshire seat of the Duke of Leeds, where it was recorded hanging in a corridor gallery in catalogues of 1898 and 1902. Its previous history is unknown but it was possibly acquired for Hornby Castle by the Darcy family. The set was on loan to the Gallery from 1930, following the death of the 10th Duke of Leeds in 1927, and was purchased in 1974 from the 10th Duke of Leeds Will Trust.

Historical context
This is a version of the standard painted portrait type of Mary that ultimately derives from life portraits of the queen by Anthonis Mor and Hans Eworth (both painted in 1554). There are autograph versions of the Mor portrait in the Prado, Madrid and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston. The large-scale portrait by Eworth is now in the collection of the Society of Antiquaries, London.

Notes on attribution
This portrait is the product of an English workshop. The sixteen portraits in the set appear to have been sourced from several different workshops. It is possible that this portrait came from the same source as the paintings of Henry VII and Henry VIII.

Justification for dating
Some of the portraits in the set appear to be directly based on woodcuts from a series published in London in 1597 (Thomas Talbot, A Booke Containing the True Portraiture of the Kings of England) so it is likely that the set was produced after this date. Unlike the majority of sets of English kings and queens made after 1618, none of the portraits are based on engravings from Henry Holland’s Baziliologia, which was published in that year. It is likely, therefore, that this set was produced before the Baziliologia was published. The materials and methods used to produce this portrait are entirely consistent with paintings from the period; dendrochronological analysis indicates that the tree used for the panel is likely to have been felled after 1585.

The paint surface has suffered flaking and paint loss in the past and there is extensive restoration.

Painting technique
The flesh paint is very damaged and worn, with extensive restoration, but it is evident that the paint is handled in a more refined manner than seen on other works in this set. Final details such as the eyelashes and some contours of the features have been applied at a late stage with very fine dry lines of paint. Blue pigment is used in the shadows, which is also seen in Henry VII (NPG 4980(13)). As with the other Tudor monarchs in this set, there is no gilding and lead-tin yellow was used to depict gold elements.

Drawing and transfer technique
The dark sparkly material observed in the white collar is likely to be underdrawing, but it is largely obscured by the upper paint layers and little is evident elsewhere. Marks below the pearl on the pendant may indicate that it was originally planned to hang lower down.

Other known versions
There are many other versions of this portrait, most of which were made for sets of English kings and queens.

Head-and-shoulders versions can be found in the following collections:
- The Deanery, Ripon – two versions, one of which is part of a set
- Longleat (Marquess of Bath) – part of a set
- Swynnerton Hall
- The Chequers Trust
- Charlecote Park
- Anglesey Abbey (National Trust)
- Knole (Sackville collection)
- Dulwich Picture Gallery, DPG536
- Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, 44
- Petworth House, National Trust, NT 485115
- Royal Collection, RCIN 404739

Cooper, Tarnya, ‘The Enchantment of the Familiar Face: Portraits as Domestic Objects in Elizabethan and Jacobean England’ in Hamling, Tara and Richardson, Catherine (eds.), Everyday Objects: Medieval and Early Modern Material Culture and its Meanings, 2010, pp. 157-177
Daunt, Catherine, ‘Portrait Sets in Tudor and Jacobean England’, unpublished PhD thesis, University of Sussex, 2015
Daunt, Catherine, Heroes and Worthies: Emerging Antiquarianism and the Taste for Portrait Sets in England', in T. Cooper, A. Burnstock, M. Howard and E. Town, eds, Painting in Britain 1500-1630: Production, Influences and Patronage, 2015, pp. 362-75
Gibson, Robin, ‘The National Portrait Gallery’s Set of Kings and Queens at Montacute House’ in The National Trust Yearbook, 1975, pp. 81-87
Gibson, Robin, ‘A Jacobean Gallery of the Kings and Queens of England’, Folio, Spring 1995 (The Folio Society, London), pp. 9-16
Strong, Roy, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 1969, I, pp. 207-13


Micro 01. Detail of the eye on the left (7.1…
Micro 02. Detail of the eye on the right (7.1…
Micro 03. Detail of painted black line on lip…
Micro 04. Detail of inscription (10 x mag).
Micro 05. Detail of collar, showing sparkly u…
Micro 06. Detail of jewels on headdress (7.1…
Micro 07. Detail of pentiment on shoulder lin…
Micro 08. Detail of blue pigment on costume (…
UV 01. Front of the panel in ultra violet lig…
Reverse 01. Back of the panel in raking light…

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Compare high-resolution images against the painting - mainly x-ray and infra-red photography images, but sometimes UV or raking light images - side by side with the ability to zoom in on details.

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The panel appears to be in a stable condition. The paint surface has suffered flaking and paint loss in the past, particularly in the background at the lower-right corner. There is extensive restoration over much of the paint surface, especially in the black dress, the background and the face. The restoration is adequately matched but appears rather milky in the costume. The varnish is reasonably even and semi-glossy.


Support type: Eastern Baltic oak

Number of boards: 3

Panel Orientation: Vertical

Panel condition observations

The panel is damaged at the lower-right edge with some small wood loss. This has been repaired with filling and a small piece of canvas attached to the reverse. There are two small repaired splits in the top of the panel towards the left. There are two holes in panel - in the forehead - which have pierced the paint surface and have been repaired. These are likely to be related to an earlier hanging method.

Dendrochronology (what's this? )


An examination of tree rings, which can help to provide the earliest possible felling dates for the wood used for the panel. The technique can also indicate the geographical origin of the wood.

Number of boards: 3

Last date of tree ring: 1577


For analysis the boards were labelled A, B and C from the left (from the front). No sapwood was present. The boards A and C were not dated. The last ring on board B was dated to 1577. Adding the minimum and maximum expected number of sapwood rings suggests that it derives from a tree felled after 1585. Board B is 204 mm, which is below normal for an eastern Baltic oak board and suggests that it could have been significantly trimmed.

X-radiography (what's this? )


A technique used to identify changes in composition beneath the surface of the paint layers and to understand the physical structure of a panel or canvas.

The wood grain and panel joins can be seen in x-ray and it is clear that the joins have not been broken and reglued (see x-ray mosaic 01). The two holes in the forehead are probably nail holes for an old hanging method. The painting technique is clear and crisp. There is soft blending in the face and the blackwork embroidery was applied when the white collar paint was still tacky.

Infrared reflectography (what's this? )

Infra-Red Reflectographyclose

A technique used to observe the layers beneath the paint surface which can reveal underdrawing and changes to the initial design.

There appears to be minimal underdrawing on this panel. Marks around the sitter's features that were thought to be underdrawing are actually painted lines above other paint layers (see DIRR 01 and Surface examination). Under the microscope thick sparkly material can be seen; this is likely to be underdrawing in the white collar but is obscured by upper paint layers (see micro 05). Marks below the pearl on the pendant may indicate that it was originally planned to hang lower down.

Paint sampling (what's this? )

Paint Samplingclose

Investigation into microscopic pigment samples or samples of other media in order to help with dating, to reveal the order of the paint layers and help to understand the painting techniques used.

Paint samples were taken for analysis in April 2011.

The panel is prepared with a chalk ground and a white priming.

Blue sleeve of dress
Sample 1: Cross-section shows the chalk ground and white priming. The paint layer over the priming is a layer of dark blue paint containing indigo, lead white, red (ochre or vermilion) and carbon black. The red may have been added to improve the quality of the blue, giving it a more purplish hue to imitate more pure blues such as ultramarine.

Red background
Sample 2: Cross-section shows the chalk ground. The sample was taken at the edge and there is no priming present, which indicates that the priming was not applied right to the edge, as with other paintings in this set. There is a pinkish red paint layer over the ground that contains warm earth pigments, including large particles of red ochre, and also lead white and carbon black. A second paint layer shows traces of a scarlet red lake glaze.

Surface examination (what's this? )

Surface Examinationclose

An examination of the construction of paint layers, glazes and condition often using a microscope. This method provides important evidence concerning an artist’s technique and paint handling and can reveal a specific artist’s characteristic painting style.

Painting style and method
The paint is handled in a more refined, smoother manner than that seen in other works in this set. Final details, such as the eyelashes and some contours of the features, have been applied at a late stage with very fine, dry lines of paint. The use of blue pigment in some of the shadows is also seen on Henry VII (NPG 4980(13)).

Preparation layers
The panel was prepared with a chalk ground and a white priming. The thick sparkly underdrawing is visible in some elements of the costume.

The flesh paint is very damaged and worn with extensive areas of retouching. The original paint layers in the flesh are thinly applied and finely blended with very little brush texture visible. There appears to be an underlayer, which is pale brown in colour, visible in the hairline and at the edges of the face. The modelling layers of the flesh have been applied over the underlayer and the paint mixture contains vermilion, red lake, white and black pigments. Around the nose and nostrils a medium-rich brown paint has been applied for the shadows, which contains a small amount of blue pigment; this is also seen in the portrait of Henry VII (NPG 4980(13)) from the same set. The lips have been painted with same pigment mixture as the flesh but with a higher proportion of red lake and vermilion. The upper and lower lips have been painted separately with a gap in the middle. A line of medium-rich paint with black pigment particles has then been painted between the lips to emphasise this line (see micro 03). In infrared it was thought that this could be underdrawing (see Infrared reflectography) but through the microscope it can clearly be seen to be lying over the paint layers. Around the nose and mouth there is a high concentration of black pigment particles that lie on top of the paint layer but are also incorporated into it.

The irises have been painted in a pale grey blended with white. The pupil has been painted in black on top of the iris and the line of black has been used to outline the right side of the iris. After the lower paint layers had dried, two strokes of lead white were applied over the iris and pupil for small highlights. The corners of the eyes have been emphasised with a stroke of light pink paint containing red lake and white (see micro 01 and micro 02). A thin grey paint layer has been applied in the areas left for the whites of the eyes, and a thicker layer containing lead white has been used for lighter areas over this layer. The upper eyelid has been defined with a stroke of red/brown paint. Over this the eyelashes have been painted in with very fine, thin stokes of paint. A thin line of red has been painted along the lower lid, it is medium rich and contains red lake pigment.

Hair and eyebrows
The hair has been blocked in at an early stage with broad brushstrokes and a medium-rich warm brown paint. Final details have been worked up after the flesh and costume were completed. Darker opaque paint layers have been applied as well as small brushstrokes for highlights. Final strands of hair around the face were applied at a later stage using a fine brush.

The black areas of the headdress have been applied at an early stage and contain a small amount of red pigment mixed in with the black. A reserve has been left for the white of the headdress and the jewels. Care has been taken to create the effect of shadow on the white fabric. Beneath the jewels there is a warm orange paint layer; this appears to have been applied after the areas of black but before some of the red background, which is painted up and around the outline of the jewels (see micro 06). The metalwork of the jewels is painted with methodical care using lead-tin yellow. The black of the diamonds has been painted over the orange layer with lead white highlights blended wet-in-wet. The pearls have been painted in different shades of grey with the direction of the brushstrokes creating the rounded form of the jewels. Some pearls have strokes of white to indicate reflected light and others a stroke of dark grey for shadow. All the pearls have a final highlight of lead white.

Dress, collar, necklace and pendant
A reserve has been left for the white collar. It has been painted in with a lead white based paint mixture with a higher proportion of black in the shadows. The blackwork has been applied over this layer in thin strokes of black paint with systematic daubs marking the stitching around the edges (see micro 05). The dress has a green appearance that is likely to be due to extensive retouching. The dress is actually painted with a paint mixture containing indigo mixed with lead white, carbon black and a small amount of red ochre for warmth (see micro 08). A pentiment is now visible along the shoulder line of the dress: the blue paint layer was originally painted higher up but has been altered, with the final layer of background paint applied over the top (see micro 07). Reserves have been left in the paint layer of the dress and flesh paint for the pendant and necklace. The jewels have been applied over an initial layer of warm orange paint.

Background and inscription
The background appears to have been applied in two layers. The initial layer contains earth pigments, lead white and carbon black and was applied at a very early stage of the painting process. Traces of a second layer are visible, which is likely to have been a red lake glaze that was applied after the sitter was completed. The inscription is painted with lead-tin yellow mixed with white and a little black (see micro 04).

Order of construction
- Ground
- Priming
- Underdrawing
- Background underlayer
- Blocking in layer of hair
- Black of headdress
- Flesh
- Hair
- Blue dress
- White collar
- Jewels
- Final background layer
- Inscription

White lead, carbon black, vermilion, red lake, lead-tin yellow, red ochre, earth pigments, indigo

Changes in composition/Pentimenti
The line of the shoulders and right side arm have been altered during the painting stage.

Ultra violet examination (what's this? )

Ultra Violetclose

A method which helps to reveal past restoration and the extent of varnish layers.

There is considerable restoration in the black costume and on the face, which appears dark in ultra violet light. The varnish appears opaque in ultra violet with a greenish fluorescence. It is evidently of some age and the restoration is mostly beneath the varnish. Small areas of more recent restoration, above the old varnish, appear darker than the rest. These can be seen over the holes in the forehead and scattered along the bottom of the painting.


Frame type: Not original.

Frame date: Late 20th century.


Carved and ebonised frame with Egg and Dart motifs.