Elizabeth I, ca. 1570
Oil on panel
20 1/4 x 16 1/2 in. (51.5 x 42 cm)
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Elizabeth I (reigned 1558-1603), Henry VIII's daughter by Anne Boleyn, was crowned queen in 1558 upon the death of her half-sister Mary, and ruled for almost forty-five years. During her long, turbulent reign, she put down numerous rebellions and withstood pressure and threats of invasion from foreign Catholic countries such as France and Spain. By her death in 1603, England had become a strong and united nation.
The Queen's love of lavish clothes and fine jewelry was legendary. She had thousands of dresses, shoes, gloves, fans, and other accessories, and received hundreds of gifts of gold, silver, and jewels from loyal courtiers. She set the fashions of the day, with ladies throughout the land copying her look. Despite many suitors, Elizabeth never married, preferring instead to use the promise of her hand in marriage as a diplomatic bargaining tool in domestic and international affairs.
Eworth's portrait of the Queen dates from around 1570 and shows her wearing a much more sober outfit than those she wore later in life. A year before the picture was painted, Catholic nobles from the north of England had tried to seize power, but Elizabeth brutally put down their rebellion. Almost immediately, she was excommunicated by the Pope, who urged Catholic princes from Europe to invade England and overthrow Elizabeth. The picture presents an austere image of Elizabeth, twelve years into her reign and facing enormous internal and external pressures.
Probably part of the collection formed by John, 2nd Lord Northwick (1769-1859); by descent; Christie's, Northwick Park, June 25, 1965, lot 4; Sotheby's, London, April 3, 1996, lot 17
Literature: A Catalogue of the Pictures, Works of Art, etc. at Northwick Park, 1864, no. 430; T. Borenius and L. Cust, A Catalogue of the Collection of Pictures at Northwick Park, 1921, p. 115, no. 277; E. Auerbach, "Portraits of Elizabeth I," Burlington Magazine, Vol. XCV, June 1953, p. 201, no. 603, pl. 29; R. Strong, Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I, 1963, p. 58, no. 19, illus.; R. Strong, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 1969, Vol. I, p. 110; R. Strong, Gloriana, The Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I, 1987, p. 61, pl. 48
Exhibited: Nottingham City Art Gallery and Museum, Coronation Exhibition, 1953, no. 12; Municipal Museum, The Hague, De Eeuw van Shakespeare, 1958, no. 32
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