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A number of portraits from the 1560s seem to be by the painter of this work, whose identity is unknown. Characteristic features include the angle at which the face is presented and the soft treatment of the hair.The sitter may be Elizabeth I's maid of honour, Helena Snakenborg, who became a powerful figure at court. In 1565 she had visited England with the Swedish princess Cecilia, remaining there as the fiancée of the elderly Marquis of Northampton, whom she was to marry in 1571. The carnation behind her ear may be a symbol of her betrothal.

May 2007