Information

Elizabeth I Sieve Portrait



Plimpton Sieve Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I

The Plimpton Sieve Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I is an oil painting by English painter George Gower dated 1579, and now in the collection of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. It is one of three near-identical portraits of Elizabeth I by Gower that represent the queen holding a symbolic sieve. [1] It was acquired by George Arthur Plimpton in 1930, hence the name. His son, Francis T. P. Plimpton, willed it to the Folger. [2]

Plimpton Sieve Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I
ArtistGeorge Gower
Year1579
MediumOil on wood
Dimensions104.4 cm × 76.2 cm (41.1 in × 30.0 in)
LocationFolger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C.


The globe

One of the most clear and potent symbols in the portrait is the globe on which Elizabeth’s right hand rests. It’s no coincidence that her fingers are resting on the Americas: this was the focal point of European colonial ambition, which had already seen England clash with Spain, the Catholic enemy whose defeat the portrait commemorates.

The story of Western European invasion and colonisation of the Americas is often told – but what we hear about less often is the way in which that story of colonisation is also the story of the imposition of Western European gender hierarchies and binaries on indigenous American societies.

This story was being written from the moment of first contact between Europeans and the indigenous people of the Caribbean. The first group to encounter Christopher Columbus’s party of invaders were the Taíno people of the Caribbean.


Queen Elizabeth I ('The Ditchley portrait')

Known as the 'Ditchley Portrait', this painting was produced for Sir Henry Lee who had been the Queen's Champion from 1559-90. It probably commemorates an elaborate symbolic entertainment which Lee organised for the Queen in September 1592, and which may have been held in the grounds of Lee's house at Ditchley, near Oxford, or at the nearby palace at Woodstock.. After his retirement in 1590 Lee lived at Ditchley with his mistress Anne Vavasour. The entertainment marked the Queen's forgiveness of Lee for becoming a 'stranger lady's thrall'. The portrait shows Elizabeth standing on the globe of the world, with her feet on Oxfordshire. The stormy sky, the clouds parting to reveal sunshine, and the inscriptions on the painting, make it plain that the portrait's symbolic theme is forgiveness. The three fragmentary Latin inscriptions can be interpreted as: (left) 'She gives and does not expect' (right) 'She can but does not take revenge', and (bottom right) 'In giving back she increases (?)'. The sonnet (right), perhaps composed by Lee, though fragmentary, can mostly be reconstructed. Its subject is the sun, symbol of the monarch.

Related works back to top

Linked publications back to top

    , 2010, p. 9, p. 23
  • Lost faces : identity and discovery in Tudor Royal portraiture, 2007 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from Catalogue of an exhbition held at Philip Mould, London, 6-18 March 2007), p. 96 number 60
  • Bolland, Charlotte, Tudor & Jacobean Portraits, 2018, p. 156 Read entry

In 1592, Sir Henry Lee staged an elaborate pageant for Elizabeth I at his house at Ditchley in Oxfordshire and at the nearby palace at Woodstock. This was intended as a celebration of the queen's forgiveness of Lee for choosing to live with his mistress Anne Vavasour after his retirement as Queen's Champion. Elizabeth's motto was Semper eadem ('Always the same'), but, as she aged, her imagery, in both written and painted form, became ever more elaborate poets hymned her praise as Gloriana and Astraea, and painters created images of an iconic 'Virgin Queen'. This famous portrait was probably created for the pageant at Ditchley. Its symbolic theme is forgiveness as Elizabeth stands on the globe, signalling her divinely sanctioned right to rule as she banishes the stormy darkness. Her positioning suggests that she personifies England, and her likeness shows a blending of fantasy and realism: she wears the youthful clothing of an unmarried woman but, instead of simply replicating existing portrait types that ignored any suggestion of Elizabeth's mortality, Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger has sensitively created an image that acknowledges the passage of time. The sonnet on the right may have been composed by Lee and refers to Elizabeth as the 'prince of light' it may have been read aloud as part of the entertainment. The ships that surround the coastline provide both a line of defence and a means of engaging with exploration and trade with the world beyond England's borders.

The only surviving child of Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth was twenty-five years old when she inherited the throne from her half-sister Mary. As an unmarried woman, Elizabeth was without peer amongst the rulers of Europe and, although the question of succession was ever present, she created a model of rule that skilfully offset the presentation of her femininity with assertions of the power of her rule.

The artificiality of Elizabeth&rsquos staged court appearances and her portraiture come together in this late portrait, which was probably commissioned as part of a lavish entertainment staged by Sir Henry Lee at his house in Ditchley, near Oxford, in 1592. Lee had retired from the role of Queen&rsquos Champion in 1590. A cartouche halfway down on the right-hand side contains a sonnet on the theme of the sun, the symbol of the monarch, which refers to the queen as the &lsquoprince of light&rsquo. Elizabeth is shown standing on a map, her feet placed on Oxfordshire, and turning away from stormy skies, a feature that may demonstrate her forgiveness of Lee, who had fallen from favour after choosing to live with his mistress following his retirement.

The so-called &lsquoDitchley&rsquo portrait, named after the house where it long resided. The Virgin Queen is portrayed in all her glory, displaying both heavenly and earthly power.

This portrait was commissioned by Sir Henry Lee to mark a visit by Elizabeth I to his house at Ditchley, in Oxfordshire. It was the centrepiece of a pageant in which Sir Henry expressed his remorse and regret at having slighted the Queen by going to live at Ditchley with his mistress, Anne Vavasour. The painting expresses both the cosmic splendour and earthly power of Elizabeth, and the particular gratitude - the sonnet refers to 'rivers of thanks' - Lee owes to the Queen for her anticipated forgiveness of him. The personal bond between female monarch and male subordinates, and the monarch's controlling role, are vividly demonstrated. There is little better evidence for how courtiers saw the Queen, or more realisticaly for the image of her they thought it politic to subscribe to. The ageing vrigin still has a youthful figure and emphasises in her dress the mystic, bridal union with her country. She controls the pattern of the heavens, towering over her country and the globe: a pictorial assertion of her divine right to rule which is as effective as any of the wordy arguments of her successor James I.

The &lsquoDitchley Portrait&rsquo, depicts the mighty queen, her power both earthly and cosmic, dominating England. More personally, in Latin tags and the sonnet on the right, Sir Henry Lee expresses both admiration and gratitude at her forgiveness of him for living at Ditchley, Oxfordshire with his mistress, when his first allegiance in love, according to the manners of the court, was to the fair Eliza.

This immense and highly ornate image of the Queen floating over a map of England, with thunderclouds behind her and bright sun in front, is thought to have been commissioned by one of her courtiers, Sir Henry Lee, in honour of her visit to his country house, Ditchley Park north of Oxford, in September 1592. It provides the most extreme idea of her as the incarnation of supreme majesty, with pinched waist and puffed sleeves and a dress festooned with jewels. But although the trappings suggest a complete lack of realism, her face has some elements of her appearance in late middle age, with wrinkled skin and hooked nose. The spirit of this portrait echoes Sir John Harrington when he wrote of the Queen, 'When she smiled, it was a pure sun-shine, that every one did chuse to bask in, if they could but anon came a storm from a sudden gathering of clouds, and the thunder fell in wondrous manner on all alike'.


MA English


Elizabeth Tudor is considered by many to be the greatest monarch in English history. When she became queen in 1558, she was twenty-five years old, a survivor of scandal and danger, and considered illegitimate by most Europeans. She inherited a bankrupt nation, torn by religious discord, a weakened pawn between the great powers of France and Spain. She was only the third queen to rule England in her own right the other two examples, her cousin Lady Jane Grey and half-sister Mary I, were disastrous. Even her supporters believed her position dangerous and uncertain. Her only hope, they counseled, was to marry quickly and lean upon her husband for support. But Elizabeth had other ideas.

She ruled alone for nearly half a century, lending her name to a glorious epoch in world history. She dazzled even her greatest enemies. Her sense of duty was admirable, though it came at great personal cost. She was committed above all else to preserving English peace and stability her genuine love for her subjects was legendary. Only a few years after her death in 1603, they openly lamented her passing. In her greatest speech to Parliament, she told them, 'I count the glory of my crown that I have reigned with your love.' Five centuries later, the worldwide love affair with Elizabeth Tudor continues.

Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I abound, particularly from the later years of her reign. Elizabeth was perhaps the first monarch to understand the importance of public relations and she carefully prepared her image for public consumption.

There is certainly little warmth in any of her portraits, but there is much majesty. Beautiful and formidable, she gazes at us from the canvas and remains as compelling a subject in the twenty-first century as she was in the sixteenth.

At this page, please view the queen in all of her glory and her many guises. I have provided commentary for many of the portraits.

Enjoy your visit and please explore my Queen Elizabeth I website to learn more about her fascinating life. -Marilee


Please note: As students of Elizabeth's life know, the queen was very proud of her beautiful hands. She considered them her best feature and took pains to have them prominently displayed in all of her state portraits. As you view the following images, please note this recurring feature.

If I know the current location of a portrait, it is listed after the title / artist / date. The National Portrait Gallery in London has the most comprehensive selection of Elizabethan portraits. You may visit their website to learn of special exhibitions, or purchase prints. I certainly recommend viewing the original portraits if you can.

7 November 2006 Mr Peter James Hall, owner of the beautiful Clopton Portrait listed below, has temporarily loaned it to the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. A kind visitor to this website saw it in person and confirmed that it is spectacular and urges everyone to see it. I did see it - and she's right, it is striking in person - and I have to apologize for not posting this news sooner. All of my Tudor-related time on the internet has been devoted to redesigning Tudor England and not working on this auxillary site. So - go see the Clopton portrait before it leaves! And yes, kicks to me for being so disorganized and distracted.

2 June 2006 I have posted three new portraits of Queen Elizabeth. One is dated c1550. It is only the second solo portrait of Elizabeth as princess that I've found. All three paintings are attributed to Levina Teerlinc the other two are dated c1565. I have several more color portraits to scan and post, including variations of the Darnley and Ditchley portraits. However, I'll be moving house / packing and unpacking for most of June so they might not be posted for several weeks.

Levina Teerlinc and her husband were appointed court painters to King Henry VIII after the death of Hans Holbein the Younger. She produced numerous miniature portraits, particularly of the young Queen Elizabeth. Please note that the following portraits are attributed to Teerlinc the painter has not been definitively identified. I'll add commentary later. And I'll also be investigating the provenance of these portraits since I've seen just one of them before and I don't think it was identified as Elizabeth. Also, the sitter's nose undergoes quite a change from 1550 to 1565.

However, they have all been identified as Elizabeth by Sir Roy Strong, who is the authority on Tudor portraiture. So - it will be an interesting investigation. In any case, they're lovely and it's always exciting to find new stuff, particularly in color.

Elizabeth as Princess of England, c1550

Elizabeth as Queen of England, c1565

Elizabeth as Queen of England, c1565


Two books embroidered and translated by Princess Elizabeth. Both were given as gifts to Queen Katharine Parr, Henry VIII's last wife and Elizabeth's beloved stepmother:

Elizabeth's embroidery of her translation of the French poem The Mirror of the Sinful Soul, 1544
It is bound in blue cloth and embroidered with silver thread. Katharine Parr's initials appear in the center of the cover.
Elizabeth's embroidery of her translation of Katharine Parr's Prayers and Meditations, 1545
It is bound in red cloth and embroidered with silver thread. Katharine Parr and Henry VIII's initials appear on the cover with four Tudor roses.


Princess Elizabeth, c1546, by William Scrots. This portrait can be viewed at Windsor Castle. This very beautiful portrait was sent as a gift to Elizabeth's half-brother, King Edward VI. The letter accompanying the gift was quite touching. Elizabeth wrote:

'For the face, I grant, I might well blush to offer, but the mind I shall never be ashamed to present. . when you shall look on my picture you will witsafe to think that as you have but the outward shadow of the body before you, so my inward mind wisheth that the body itself were oftener in your presence.'


Princess Elizabeth, cropped from a dynastic portrait of Henry VIII and his children. I will post commentary on this image soon.


Elizabeth's signature as Princess of England, 1549. This signature is cropped from a letter to the Lord Protector, Edward Seymour, during Edward VI's reign.


Elizabeth I: The Clopton Portrait, c1560, unknown artist. This portrait is owned by Mr Peter James Hall. It is a rare image of Elizabeth from the early years of her reign. She is dressed quite plainly but this is nonetheless a lovely portrait. It was not intended to be an iconographic statement and thus focuses on the young queen's features rather than those of her surroundings.

Most portraits of Elizabeth as queen are concerned with conveying an image rather than the truth of her appearance or character. She never appears less than confident and regal. But in this portrait her gaze is wary and she seems almost self-conscious in her finery.


Elizabeth I: Portrait with verses, c1565, unknown artist / British school. This portrait is very interesting - an almost medieval composition dating from the first decade of Elizabeth's reign. The entire portrait - including the frame - is made from a single piece of wood. The queen's hair is pulled back and held by a jeweled caul in Italian fashion, and she holds a book in her left hand. The book is reminiscent of the earliest-known portrait of Elizabeth, c.1546. The existence of this portrait was only discovered in 1994, when it was made available for sale.

The inscription at the bottom of the frame is supposedly Elizabeth's reply to a Marian priest when questioned about Christ's presence in the Sacrament -
'Twas God the word that spake it,
He took the Bread and brake it
And what the word did make it
That I believe, and take it.'


Elizabeth I at prayer, from the frontispiece of her personal prayer book, 1569.


Elizabeth I, miniature portrait on vellum playing card, 1572, by Nicholas Hilliard. This is Hilliard's first miniature of Elizabeth. He later became one of her favorite artists. Hilliard's impact upon the history of English portraiture should not be underestimated. In his way, he was as influential as Holbein during the reign of Elizabeth's father.


Elizabeth I, from 'The Family of Henry VIII: An Allegory of the Tudor Succession', c1572, attributed to Lucas de Heere. This painting can be viewed at Sudeley Castle. I have cropped the image of Elizabeth from the painting. Elizabeth appears to the right of her father, Henry VIII, holding the hand of Peace and followed by Plenty. The figure of Peace steps upon the sword of discord. To the left of Elizabeth is her brother, Edward VI, kneeling at Henry's side.


Elizabeth I: Red-chalk drawing, 1574, by Federico Zuccaro. This is a prepatory sketch for a full-length portrait. Zuccaro made a companion sketch of the queen's favorite courtier, Sir Robert Dudley. A phoenix and pelican are perched on the columns behind the queen. Their symbolism is explained below, under 'The Pelican Portrait' and 'The Phoenix Portrait'.

Elizabeth I: Colored sketch, c1570s, attributed to Federico Zuccaro. This beautiful sketch can be viewed at Sudeley Castle.


Elizabeth I: The Darnley Portrait, 1575, by an unknown artist. This portrait can be viewed at the NPG. I think this is one of the queen's most beautiful gowns, faithfully recreated in the BBC miniseries Elizabeth R. (The Ditchley, Armada, and coronation gowns are also recreated in the series.)


Elizabeth I: The Pelican Portrait, c1575, attributed to Nicholas Hilliard. This portrait is held by the National Portrait Gallery (NPG), London. It is not on display. Along with Hilliard's equally famous 'Phoenix Portrait', this picture shows the growing stylization of images of the queen. Such stylization reached its apogee in the beautiful 'Rainbow Portrait' below. There is a closed imperial crown over each shoulder. The crown is on top of both a rose (on the left) and a fleur-de-lys (on the right.) These represent her dynastic claims to both England and France. The Pelican pendant on her breast symbolizes charity and redemption. It represents the queen's selfless love of her subjects. How? According to legend, the pelican pricked its own breast to feed its children with the blood. Elizabeth wore a pelican jewel in several state portraits to remind the English of her equally selfless love.

Many visitors have asked where I found the beautiful Tudor rose image for the Contents page it is cropped from this portrait.


Elizabeth I: The Phoenix Portrait, c1575, attributed to Nicholas Hilliard. This portrait can be viewed at the Tate Gallery, London. Some scholars believe this striking portrait was painted a year after the 'Pelican Portrait'. The phoenix symbolizes sacrifice and rebirth.

Elizabeth I playing the lute, date unknown, by Nicholas Hilliard. Elizabeth was an accomplished musician and played the lute throughout her life. She often performed in her privy chamber for select courtiers, but also played alone in her chambers 'when she was solitary to shun melancholy.'


Elizabeth I: The Peace Portrait, 1580-5, by Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder. In this portrait, the queen is the harbinger of peace. She holds an olive branch in her left hand and a sheathed sword lies at her feet. She is possibly wearing the same headdress, collar and girdle from the 'Ermine Portrait'. Also, both gowns are 'Polish style' with froggings.

From the date, we can assume the symbolism refers to the turbulent situation in the Netherlands.

I have read that this is the only definitively identified painting by Gheeraerts the Elder it is certainly his only surviving oil portrait. I have named this portrait 'The Peace Portrait' for obvious reasons, but there is no widely-accepted title.


Manuscript portrait of Elizabeth I, from the Coram Rege Roll, 1581. The queen sits enthroned, with orb and scepter, in this beautiful image.


Elizabeth I: The Sieve Portrait, c1583, by Quentin Metsys the Younger. Elizabeth is portrayed with a sieve in a number of portraits. This one is referred to as either the 'Sieve Portrait' or 'The Siena Portrait', to distinguish it from the others. It is one of the few surviving works of Quentin Metsys the Younger and was discovered in 1895, rolled up in the attic of the Palazza Reale in Siena, hence the alternate name. Elizabeth obviously admired this artist's work. In 1577, she unsuccessfully attempted to purchase his 'Burial of Christ' triptych from the Carpenters' Guild in Antwerp.

The sieve is a symbol of chastity and purity, originally taken from Petrarch's Triumph of Chastity. In the story, a Roman Vestal Virgin proves her purity by carrying water in a sieve and not spilling one drop. The sieve thus reinforces Elizabeth's image as 'the virgin queen'. The rim of the sieve is inscribed: A TERRA ILBEN / AL DIMORA IN SELLA' (The good falls to the ground while the bad remains in the saddle).

The figure to the right of Elizabeth is possibly her courtier Sir Christopher Hatton. His white hind badge is just barely visible on the figure's cloak. If so, then it is possible that Hatton commissioned this portrait he may have met Metsys during a trip to Antwerp in 1573.

The roundels behind the queen depict the story of Aeneas and Dido, with the queen compared to Aeneas. Like the classical hero, she has faced temptation (marriage) and now leads a powerful nation. The globe behind the queen continues this theme. Ships are crossing west on the globe, possibly an allusion to England's conquest of the New World. TVTTO VEDO ET MOLTO MANCHA ('I see all and much is lacking') is inscribed on the globe. The portrait itself is inscribed: STANCHO RIPOSO & RIPO SATO AFFA NNO ('Weary I am and, having rested, still am weary.')


Elizabeth I receiving two Dutch ambassadors, 1585. This painting was made shortly before the earl of Leicester's expedition to the Low Countries.


Elizabeth I: The Ermine Portrait, 1585, by Nicholas Hilliard. This portrait can be viewed at Hatfield House. Why is Elizabeth seated with an ermine? It was the symbol of royalty and, if you look closely at the animal, you can see the gold crown it wears. The crown symbolizes majesty and purity. As for the bejeweled black gown and background - black and white were the queen's favorite colors. Also, the deep, dark color reinforces the symbolic gravity of the painting.

In this portrait, Elizabeth wears the famous 'Three Brothers' jewel - a gem made of three diamonds set in a triangle around a pointed diamond. It was one of her most treasured jewels. The sword of state rests on the table beside the queen and symbolizes justice she also holds an olive branch to symbolize peace.


'Elizabeth R': Elizabeth's signature as Queen of England, 1587. This signature was scanned from the execution warrant for Mary, queen of Scots. Elizabeth's seal is directly below her signature.


Elizabeth I: The Armada Portrait, c1588, unknown artist. Another version of this portrait can be viewed at the NPG however, it has been cut at the sides. Click here to view it. Symbolism is rife in this famous image, of which there are three versions. Once again, pearls - symbolic of purity - decorate the queen's head and gown. Next to her right arm is an imperial crown, and her right hand rests upon a globe - specifically, her fingers rest upon the Americas.

In 1587, a year before this portrait was made, the first English child was born at the English settlement in Virginia. The crown and globe tell us that Elizabeth is mistress of land and sea.

In the background of the painting are scenes from the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. It was the pivotal event of the latter half of Elizabeth's reign and a great triumph for the English.

The queen is wearing a pearl necklace given to her by the earl of Leicester it was Robert Dudley's last gift to the queen.

Elizabeth I: The Ditchley Portrait, c1592, by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger. This is the largest surviving full-length portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, despite having 7.5 cm cut from each side. It is also one of the earliest works by Gheeraerts. His name may seem familiar his father, Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder, painted the 'Peace Portrait' above. This famous work can be viewed at the NPG. There are numerous copies as well in most, the queen's features are considerably softened.


In 1592, Elizabeth's former champion, Sir Henry Lee, sought to regain her favor with lavish entertainment at his home in Ditchley, Oxfordshire. He had retired from court two years earlier, having offended the queen by living openly with his mistress. He commissioned this portrait to commemorate Elizabeth's visit and forgiveness. The queen stands upon a map of England, with one foot resting near Ditchley.

As a result of the cutting mentioned above, the sonnet on the 'Ditchley Portrait' lacks the final word of each line. It celebrates Elizabeth's divine powers a jeweled celestial sphere hangs from the queen's left ear, signifying her command over nature itself. The sphere had been Lee's emblem when he fought as Elizabeth's champion in the annual Accession Day tilts. The background of this portrait appears odd - it is split between blue and sunny sky on the left, and black and stormy sky on the right. This continues the theme of royal authority over nature.

Tudor / Renaissance fashion buffs should note that the queen wears her lovely gown over a wheel farthingale. This style briefly continued after Elizabeth's death, largely because James I's wife, Anne of Denmark, wore some of Elizabeth's gowns in portraits painted by, among others, Gheeraerts.


Elizabeth I, an engraving from a book frontispiece, 1596, attributed to Crispin van de Passe I. This lovely engraving is a typical example of its kind. Engravings of the queen often prefaced books, thus spreading her image into English homes and beyond England. Her phoenix and pelican devices are visible in this engraving.

Elizabeth I: The Hardwick Portrait, c1599, by Nicholas Hilliard and his workshop. I think this portrait can be viewed at Hardwick Hall, which is maintained by the National Trust. It was comissioned by the legendary Bess of Hardwick, who also embroidered the queen's skirt. The skirt is amazing - sea serpents, dragons, etc

Elizabeth I: The Rainbow Portrait, c1600, by Isaac Oliver. This portrait can be viewed at Hatfield House. Oliver was a pupil of Elizabeth's favorite court painter, Nicholas Hilliard, and the brother-in-law of Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger. Some historians have argued that Gheeraerts painted this portrait, but most favor Oliver.

This is my favorite portrait of the queen. It has the most elaborate and inventive iconography of any Tudor portrait click here to view a much larger scan.

Elizabeth's gown is embroidered with English wildflowers, thus allowing the queen to pose in the guise of Astraea, the virginal heroine of classical literature. Her cloak is decorated with eyes and ears, implying that she sees and hears all. Her headdress is an incredible design decorated lavishly with pearls and rubies and supports her royal crown. The pearls symbolize her virginity the crown, of course, symbolizes her royalty. Pearls also adorn the transparent veil which hangs over her shoulders. Above her crown is a crescent-shaped jewel which alludes to Cynthia, the goddess of the moon.

A jeweled serpent is entwined along her left arm, and holds from its mouth a heart-shaped ruby. Above its head is a celestial sphere. The serpent symbolizes wisdom it has captured the ruby, which in turn symbolizes the queen's heart. In other words, the queen's passions are controlled by her wisdom. The celestial sphere echoes this theme it symbolizes wisdom and the queen's royal command over nature.

Elizabeth's right hand holds a rainbow with the Latin inscription 'Non sine sole iris' ('No rainbow without the sun'). The rainbow symbolizes peace, and the inscription reminds viewers that only the queen's wisdom can ensure peace and prosperity.

Elizabeth was in her late sixties when this portrait was made, but for iconographic purposes she is portrayed as young and beautiful, more than mortal. In this portrait, she is ageless.


Elizabeth I: The Coronation Portrait, c1600, unknown artist copy of a lost original. This portrait can be viewed at the NPG. This is a copy of the portrait made to commemorate Elizabeth's accession in 1558. It is a stunning and beautiful image. Elizabeth is lavishly dressed and holds the traditional orb and scepter. Her hair is loose, as befits her unmarried state, and its color is particularly striking against the white of her skin. And, once again, Elizabeth's much-admired hands are prominently displayed as they rest upon the symbols of her authority.

Images which I am currently rescanning. Until they are posted, you can still view the old scans.

Elizabeth I, c.1580s, by John Bettes the Younger.

Portrait of Elizabeth I with a feather fan, c.1585 , by an unknown artist.

Portrait of Elizabeth I with a fan, c.1585-90, by an unknown artist.

Elizabeth I in old age, by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger.

Portrait of Queen Elizabeth on wood, c.1580 , by an unknown artist. This beautiful portrait was probably commissioned by a loyal subject. It is not a state portrait, and as a result it portrays the queen in rich but solemn attire. It is useful to compare this portrait to any of the state portraits above. The lack of lavish attire emphasizes the queen's virtue and piety rather than her majesty. Also, the book which rests before her is a testament to her wisdom.


Portrait Of Queen Elizabeth Removed From Oxford Due To 'Colonial History'

Graduate students at the University of Oxford have removed a portrait of Queen Elizabeth from their common area because of its ties to “colonial history,” prompting cries of “cancel culture” and headlines around the world.

Members of the Magdalen College Middle Common Room, or MCR, decided to take down the portrait during a committee meeting on Monday, according to the BBC. The outlet reported that the graduate students wanted to shelve the photo of the queen because “for some students, depictions of the monarch and the British monarchy represent recent colonial history.”

Dinah Rose, a barrister and president of Magdalen College at Oxford, responded to news reports about the removal of the picture on Twitter Tuesday.

“The Middle Common Room is an organisation of graduate students. They don’t represent the College,” she wrote. “A few years ago, in about 2013, they bought a print of a photo of the Queen to decorate their common room.”

“They recently voted to take it down. Both of these decisions are their own to take, not the College’s. Magdalen strongly supports free speech and political debate, and the MCR’S right to autonomy,” Rose added.

“Maybe they’ll vote to put it up again, maybe they won’t. Meanwhile, the photo will be safely stored.”

Rose also implored supporters of the queen to keep her in mind before harassing members of Oxford.

“If you are one of the people currently sending obscene and threatening messages to the College staff, you might consider pausing, and asking yourself whether that is really the best way to show your respect for the Queen,” she said.

“Or whether she’d be more likely to support the traditions of free debate and democratic decision-making that we are keeping alive at Magdalen.”

Buckingham Palace had no comment for HuffPost on Wednesday. Oxford University and Magdalen College did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Predictably, some people decried the students’ decision as “absurd” and proof of “cancel culture.”

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson called the removal of the portrait “simply absurd.”

“She is the Head of State and a symbol of what is best about the UK,” he tweeted. “During her long reign she has worked tirelessly to promote British values of tolerance, inclusivity & respect around the world.”

Oxford University students removing a picture of the Queen is simply absurd. She is the Head of State and a symbol of what is best about the UK. During her long reign she has worked tirelessly to promote British values of tolerance, inclusivity & respect around the world

&mdash Gavin Williamson (@GavinWilliamson) June 8, 2021

Other British universities have experienced backlash for any seeming tributes to the monarchy. King’s College London recently apologized for sending out a photo of Prince Philip following his death. After a number of complaints from critics of the Duke of Edinburgh, associate director Joleen Clarke told students and staff that the school was “sorry to have caused this harm.”

“The inclusion of the picture was not intended to commemorate him,” Clarke said. “Through feedback and subsequent conversations, we have come to realise the harm that this caused members of our community, because of his history of racist and sexist comments.”

The royal family has been grappling with accounts of racism following Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s interview with Oprah Winfrey in March. Meghan, who is biracial, said that one royal family member had expressed racist “concerns” over the color of their son Archie’s skin prior to his birth.

Revelations from the interview prompted Prince William to assert that the royals were “very much not a racist family.” Buckingham Palace also issued a statement on behalf of the queen, stating that “The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately.”

The Guardian also recently uncovered and published documentation outlining former Buckingham Palace hiring practices that banned minorities and foreigners from holding office positions, though it did not prevent them from serving as domestic workers. The outlet said the practice continued until at least the late 1960s.

Prince Harry spoke of the royal family’s need to reckon with its colonial past and the history of the Commonwealth, which includes former British colonies, last July in an interview with young leaders of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust.

“There is no way that we can move forward unless we acknowledge the past,” Harry said at the time.

The British monarchy actively participated in the slave trade. Kehinde Andrews, professor of Black studies at Birmingham City University, previously told HuffPost UK that “The British monarchy is a racist institution.”

“Its symbolic role is whiteness. Even now, the fact that we think the Queen represents Britain, just tells you all that’s wrong with so many people in this country,” he said in March. “You don’t even have to look that far back in its history. It is a champion of the Commonwealth, which is simply the British Empire. This is not something to celebrate. Most of the Commonwealth is the colonial possession of the UK.”


Sieve Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, c. 1583

This painting is by Quentin Metsys the Younger, a Flemish painter and artist of the Tudor court. It is one of several Sieve Portraits of Elizabeth I painted by various artists from 1579 into the early 1580s, so called because they depict Elizabeth carrying a sieve, thus associating her with the Roman Vestal Virgin, Tuccia. The sieve is also an emblem of wisdom and discernment.

The Sieve Portraits mark a turn in Elizabethan portraiture as they introduce motifs celebrating the Queen&rsquos chastity while also depicting the established imagery of Elizabethan imperialism. This combination of symbols creates a version of Elizabeth whose powerful and discerning rule is directly related to her status as a Virgin Queen. This celebration of Elizabeth&rsquos virginity may have been a response to the ongoing marriage suit of Francis, Duke of Alençon and Anjou by those opposed to the match. Sir Christopher Hatton &ndash one such opponent &ndash is depicted in the background of the portrait and may well be its patron.

Tuccia, the Vestal Virgin and other symbols of chastity

In ancient Rome, Vestal Virgins took vows of chastity and were attendants of Vesta, goddess of hearth and home. In Roman mythology, Tuccia, a priestess of Vesta, was falsely accused of unchasteness. She proved her virtue by performing a miracle: carrying a sieve full of water from the River Tiber to Vesta&rsquos Temple without spilling a drop. Other symbols of chastity in the painting include a quotation from the 14th-century poet Petrarch in the bottom left on the folly of love, and the faceted column to the left &ndash Petrarch&rsquos idealised love and muse Laura was often depicted with a pillar of jasper, a stone with the power to quench passion. The pillar (also a symbol of imperialism) is decorated with roundels depicting the story of Dido and Aeneas: Aeneas resisted Dido&rsquos advances and went on to found the Roman Empire.

The Virgin Queen and A Midsummer Night&rsquos Dream

Oberon speaks of a &lsquofair vestal&rsquo and &lsquoimperial vot&rsquoress&rsquo in his anecdote of watching Cupid&rsquos dart fall unspent (2.1.158&ndash64). These are often taken to be complementary allusions to Elizabeth I and her virginity, a spectre lurking in the background of the play&rsquos exploration of the themes of marriage, virginity and female sexual choice and agency. In the first few decades of her reign, Elizabeth presented herself as a marriageable virgin, but always reserved the right to choose her own husband and even whether or not she would marry at all. From the early 1580s, she was presented as a perpetual Virgin Queen. In A Midsummer Night&rsquos Dream, Titania, a headstrong Queen, foreswears her husband&rsquos bed while they are in dispute (2.1.62). Hermia creates her own choice when faced with the options of death, enforced virginity or an arranged marriage, by running away with her chosen lover. She is then confronted with and resists Lysander&rsquos (and her own) sexual desires. The play&rsquos allusions to Elizabeth (whose refusal to bend to external pressures to marry received much criticism) perhaps become darker or more dangerously pointed as the events of the wood turn cruel and the male characters exert their power over the women.

The Merchant of Venice and the woman&rsquos right to choose

Ideas about Elizabeth&rsquos rejection of foreign suitors, her right to choose a husband or to remain chaste, resonate in The Merchant of Venice. In a strikingly powerful speech, Portia laments the fact that her marriage is dictated by male choices. Her &lsquodead father&rsquo devised a &lsquolott&rsquory&rsquo where suitors from different countries &lsquochoose&rsquo from three different caskets (1.2.2533). Portia must marry the man who chooses the chest containing her portrait. Yet she notes the heavy irony of &lsquothe word choose&rsquo since &lsquoI may neither choose who I would, nor refuse who I dislike&rsquo (1.2.22&ndash24). She wittily mocks her international suitors, hoping they fail the test and &lsquoreturn &hellip home&rsquo (1.2.102&ndash03) but she admits she &lsquowill die as chaste as Diana&rsquo if she challenges her &lsquofather&rsquos will&rsquo (1.2.106&ndash08). Ultimately however, the conflict between male and female choice, submission and rebellion, is conveniently resolved by the fact that Bassanio &ndash the man Portia loves &ndash choose the right casket in Act 3, Scene 2.

© Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) in Ceremonial Costume (oil on canvas), Zuccari, or Zuccaro, Federico (1540-1609) / Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena, Italy / Bridgeman Images


Portrait of Elizabeth I of England

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The painting has three areas of text in yellow uppercase letters:

  • "TVTTO VEDO & MOLTO MANCHA" at upper left, on two lines, with the last two letters joined Italian for "I see everything and much is lacking."
  • "E R" at upper right, with a gap between the letters abbreviation for the Latin "Elizabeth Regina" meaning "Elizabeth the Queen."
  • "STANCHO RIPOSO & RIPOSATO AFFANO 1579" near the upper right, on three lines, with the second and third letters superimposed to form one character a line from Petrach'sTrionfo D'Amore, IV, 1.145, followed by the year the painting was executed Italian for "Weary, I have rested, and having rested, am breathless."

Elizabeth the First. A portrait?

Inspired by Catalysts posting of the portrait of Elizabeth and a black serpent here and the serpent connection to the one under Peter the Great's horse in the Bronze warrior sculpture at St Petersburg I intended to make a thread about the similarity however I've been sidetracked into the portrait of Elizabeth and its investigation by modern techniques namely x-ray and infrared reflectogram. Specifically I was looking for evidence that the two processes would show the serpent as it seems to have been discovered due to the fact the painted over posy of flowers has been worn away by cleaning.
Once again sidetracked by the appearance of the most beautifully painted ladies face underneath the head of Elizabeth as revealed by the x-ray process in particular.
It is striking just how well the artist who painted the hidden face knew his subject and was able to put it down on canvas. The portrait of Elizabeth is crude by comparison.
Also what stands out clear as day to me is Elizabeth looks to have been given a man's face again in contrast to the hidden woman's face. At best Elizabeth's face is ambiguous and I cannot help but feel, even in the absence of any other evidence that Elizabeth at least as portrayed here is just as likely to be a man or a woman.

However and this is where the stealing of history really comes in no-one seems to feel, at least in any of the articles I've been reading today, that the ladies face underneath may have been the actual Elizabeth. All of the articles take it as read that the virgin Queen looked in life as she does in the painting suggests.

Not groundbreaking, nor possibly that relevant even but something that may be of interest to some and clear evidence that all is not what it seems in paintings.

A screenshot of the three images side by side. Painting on the left, x-ray in the middle and infrared reflectogram on the right.


And the serpent in the same configuration whose shape is clearly visible in all three


Folger Artifact: Queen Elizabeth I- Plimpton Sieve Portrait


According to the Folger Art Collection, this portrait of the Queen is the oldest painting in their collection. Apparently, the sieve in the Queen’s hand represents her status as “The Virgin Queen”. The ancient Roman Vestal Virgin carried water in a sieve to prove her chastity and George Gower chose to use that as a symbol of Queen Elizabeth’s chastity.

Queen Elizabeth was actually referred to as “The Virgin Queen” because although she had many suitors, she kept her virginity. She never produced an heir to continue the Tudor dynasty.

Queen Elizabeth I was the daughter of Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII. King Henry had both Anne and Mary Boleyn as his mistresses. Even though Mary had a male heir, King Henry chose to turn his back on the child because he wanted to bed Anne instead. However, Anne only had Elizabeth before she was beheaded for treason and incest. Elizabeth grew up with her aunt Mary and was later the rightful heir to the throne. She reigned from 1558-1603.

This was an oil and oak painting and after this painting was completed George Gower became the Serjeant Painter to Queen Elizabeth in 1581. Over the years there have been some remakes of this portrait that many have said that Gower painted as well.

Gower, George. Queen Elizabeth I The Plimpton Sieve Portrait. 1579. Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington. Folger Shakespeare Library. Web. 5 Apr 2015.


Watch the video: Portraits and propaganda of Queen Elizabeth I of England. Curators Corner S2 Ep 8 #CuratorsCorner (January 2022).