Queen Mary I
5 of 50 portraits of Queen Mary I
- Tudor and Jacobean Portraits Database
Queen Mary I
after Anthonis Mor (Antonio Moro)
oil on panel, 1555
3 3/8 in. x 2 1/2 in. (86 mm x 64 mm)
Key findings: The portrait is painted with similarly fine and delicate brushstrokes to its companion portrait of Philip II.
Presented to the Gallery by Edward Peter Jones in 1960. The earliest known owner was recorded as the Rev. Walter Sneyd in 1865. This portrait is one of a pair (with that of Philip II, NPG 4175), and the two portraits were painted by the same hand (using different sources) and would have been designed to be displayed together.
Notes on likely authorship
It is possible that this pair of portraits (NPG 4174 and NPG 4175) may have been produced the year after the couple’s marriage to commemorate the union, either as gifts to distribute to courtiers, or to be sent abroad.
Commentary on painting style, technique
The portrait is painted with the same technique, using very fine and delicate brushstrokes, as the companion portrait of Philip II of Spain (NPG 4175). The costume is painted with great detail, with tiny brushstrokes used in the patterned collar and in the jewel on the bodice. Subtle tonal blending indicates the delicate lighting at the left which differentiates the dress from the veil. The blue pigment in the white of the eyes is azurite, whereas smalt was used in the portrait of Philip II (NPG 4175). The inscription is painted with the same yellow ochre as in the portrait of Philip II. The blue background is painted with the same mixture of smalt and white lead, applied with the same ‘combed’ method in horizontal striations, forming ridges of thick paint. This technique is similar to the background of Edward VI (NPG 442).
Justification for dating
The date 1555 is inscribed on the painting. Dendrochronology could not be carried out because the panel is too small. The material and techniques are consistent with a mid-sixteenth-century date.
Drawing and transfer technique
Much of the underdrawing is visible in normal light. It is probable that this was drawn freehand by copying another portrait or drawing. The shape and hairline are drawn with sketchy lines, often one over another to rectify the position. Areas of shadow in the flesh are indicated for the line of the cheekbone and as a semi-circular line across the forehead. The nose and eyes are clearly outlined. The lips are also outlined but the position might have been changed. The painted image generally follows the drawn lines, apart from the side of the headdress on the right where the paint does not extend as far as the drawn outline.
Relevance to other known versions
The painting derives from the portrait by Anthonis Mor which was executed during the preparations for Mary’s marriage to Philip II. Three autograph versions of this are known:
- Museo Prado, signature work by Anthonis Mor
- Royal Collection, RCIN404442
- Castle Ashby
- Isabelle Stewart Garnder Museum, Boston, signature work by Anthonis Mor, P21e22
- Nostell Priory, National Trust, NT 960232
- Trinity College, University of Cambridge, TC Oils P 116
Strong, Roy, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 1969, pp. 210-213
Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Portrait Miniatures on Loan at the South Kensington Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1865, p. 59, (no. 629)
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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.
The painting has previously split horizontally (below the chin), losses have been retouched and the split mended. There are also small losses to the edges (now restored). There is a very fine horizontal craquelure. The background has darkened and discoloured and exhibits blanching. Underdrawing is visible through the semi-transparent paint of the face. Retouchings and varnish are good. The retouching along the old split and other areas of damage is very sensitively executed and has not discoloured or become visible in normal light.
Number of boards: 1
Panel Orientation: Horizontal
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.
Dendrochronology could not be carried out because of the size of the panel.
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 x-ray clearly shows the horizontal grain of the wood and the mended split. Streaky brushstrokes are visible, probably in the priming, which appear slightly opaque and indicate that this layer contains lead white. A change to the position of the lace collar on the right side can be seen in the image. The white details of the headdress, collar and chain are visible, as is the large amount of lead white in the flesh paint. A darker shape on the right side side of the face might indicate a different position for the hair at some point, but this is not certain. The inscription is not clearly visible (see x-ray 01), as it does not contain lead pigment.
A technique used to observe the layers beneath the paint surface which can reveal underdrawing and changes to the initial design.
Infrared reflectography revealed comprehensive sketchy underdrawing in the face. Much of this underdrawing is visible in normal light. It is probable that this was drawn freehand by copying another painting or drawing (see IRR mosaic 01).
The shape of the face and hairline are drawn in a series of sketchy lines, often one over the other to rectify the position. Areas of shadow are drawn in: the line of the cheekbone, and a semi-circular line across the forehead. The nose and eyes are outlined clearly, as are the lips, although the position of the lips may have been changed. The lines are generally followed by the painted image, although on the right side of the headdress, the paint stops short of the drawn outline.
Underdrawing might be present for the rest of the image, but is not detectable by infrared reflectography, due to the black paint of the costume and headdress. Infrared reflectography also revealed some damage to the right of the nose.
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 to analyse the pigments and layer structure of the painting in 2008.
It was not possible to obtain a large enough sample to set as a cross-section in order to be able to see the full structure of the preparation layers. There is probably a chalk ground, with the pale lead-based priming applied over it.
Analysis of sample 1 showed that the hair is painted with burnt sienna, perhaps with some red ochre. The highlights contain lead-tin yellow, and the technique is very similar to that used on the chain of Philip II, NPG 4175. Bright lead-tin yellow was laid over a duller-toned yellow, which is either ochre or a different manufacture of lead-tin yellow.
Examination of a blue particle from the eye on the left (sample 3) with polarised light microscopy confirmed that it is azurite.
The background is painted with thickly applied smalt. The smalt formed ridges, or striations, of thick blue paint in a similar way to the companion portrait of Philip II, NPG 4175, and it has deteriorated in a similar way.
The yellow appears to be strong yellow ochre, and is exactly the same as Philip II, NPG 4175.
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 portrait is painted with the same technique as the companion portrait of Philip II, NPG 4175. The costume is painted with very fine detail, with tiny brushstrokes used in the patterned collar and the jewel on the bodice. Subtle tonal blending indicates the delicate lighting at the left which differentiates the dress from the veil. The blue background is painted with the same mixture of smalt and lead white, applied with the same 'combed' method in horizontal striations, forming ridges of thicker paint; in a similar way to the background of the portrait of Edward VI, NPG 442.
The panel was probably (see Paint sampling) prepared with a chalk ground, over which a thin lead-based priming was applied. Where the ground is visible through the upper paint layers, or where it is slightly exposed, it appears to have a pale pink tone.
Extensive underdrawing was detected with infrared reflectography (see Infrared reflectography), much of which is also visible through the paint layers (see micro 03). The drawing is quite sketchy, in contrast to the firmer outlines of the drawing seen in the portrait of Philip II, NPG 4175.
Paint layer structure
Eyes and flesh paint
Azurite is present in the whites of the eyes (see micro 01 and micro 02, and Paint sampling). There are some, but very few, blue particles in the flesh paint, which are probably smalt. The modelling glazes for the nostrils and eyes seem to be a mixture of red lake and black. The lips are painted with pure red lake.
The patterned collar is painted very delicately, with tiny brushstrokes of black paint used for the detail (see micro 09 and micro 11). It mostly contains just black and white, and mixtures of the two, but the section on the left also has some particles of smalt.
The jewel on the bodice is painted in great detail (see micro 04). The red stone itself is painted with orange/brown sides, but the front face is red lake. The highlights were added over these reds in lead-tin yellow and lead white.
The tiny dots of highlight that make up the chain seem to be spots of lead-tin yellow, over a brown line (see micro 10).
The red band appears to be a very smooth mixture of vermilion and white (see micro 08 and micro 15). In the details at the top of the headdress the upper line of yellow contains bright lead-tin yellow, and is painted in a similar way to the chain in NPG 4175: bright yellow over a more dull-toned yellow, either ochre or a different lead-tin yellow.
The delicate lighting on the right side, which differentiates the dress from the veil, seems to have been created by adding lead white to the mixture, and blending it into the black paint of the dress.
The thickly applied blue background exhibits the same deterioration/discolouration as the background of NPG 4175, and contains smalt (see micro 06 and micro 07). As with the companion painting, the background seems to have been painted in after the basic shapes of the face, headdress and dress, but before details such as the jewels on the top of the headdress. Horizontal striations were noted in the blue paint, forming ridges of thick paint over the pale ground (also seen in Edward VI, NPG 442). This characteristic has been noted in other paintings of the period (for example Edward VI in Profile, Compton Verney). Smalt might have been used because, when newly painted, the glassy particles would have looked quite enamel-like and shiny on this scale.
The date inscription has a warmer tone than other yellows in this painting and NPG 4175. The inscription, as with NPG 4175, does not show up clearly in x-ray and is not lead-based. The pigment might be a strong yellow ochre.
Order of construction
- Chalk ground
- Priming / Underdrawing (It was not possible to determine whether the underdrawing lies above or below the priming layer).
- Face, dress, headdress
- Jewels on headdress
Lead white, carbon black, lead-tin yellow, smalt, azurite, red lake, vermilion, yellow ochre, red ochre, earth pigments
Changes to composition/pentimenti
Some feathery brushstrokes can be seen under the flesh paint, at the lower end of the headdress, but it is not clear if these are part of the sketchy underdrawing. It is possible that the lips were altered slightly between the drawing and painting stages.
A method which helps to reveal past restoration and the extent of varnish layers.
The recent retouching appears very dark in ultra violet light, and is visible along the mended split, in the top-left corner, along the lower edge, and in the face (see UV 01). Some very fine scratches in the face also show up as dark in ultra violet light. The fluorescence is uneven: it has a grey/blue appearance in the background, but green in the black dress and headdress. This was also seen in NPG 4175, and could be related to use of a UV-fluorescent medium in certain areas. The most recent varnish is clear and does not fluoresce in ultra violet light.
Frame date: Early 21st century
No record of an original / earlier frame existing.
For display purposes a new frame was fabricated in 2014. An identical frame was also fabricated for NPG 4175 Philip II and the two framed works hinged together in the style of a diptych.
New frame constructed from a simple narrow 10 mm oak moulding glued and pinned at the mitres.
Grain filled with gesso and then given an acrylic based ebonised effect finish. Surface sealed with with clear polyurethane matt varnish and then waxed.
Brass hinges aged. Hinges secured with brass pins and fish glue.
Frame rebate lined with moisture resistant foil tape and cushioned with velvet ribbon.
Painting positioned into the frame with plastazote fillets and secured in place with museum board taped to the reverse of the frame.