Marcus Gheeraerts II Portrait of Captain Thomas Lee 1594

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Artwork details

Artist
Marcus Gheeraerts II 1561 or 2–1636
Title
Portrait of Captain Thomas Lee
Date 1594
Medium Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions Support: 2305 x 1508 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition Purchased with assistance from the Friends of the Tate Gallery, the Art Fund and the Pilgrim Trust 1980
Reference
T03028
On display at Tate Britain
Room: 1540

Display caption

Thomas was related to Sir Henry Lee, Elizabeth I's Champion and creator of imagery for her annual Accession Day celebrations. Henry may have helped devise the complex symbolism of this portrait. Thomas served in the English colonial forces in Ireland. His bare legs are a fantasy evocation both of the dress of an Irish soldier, and that of a Roman hero. Thomas was suspected of treachery to Elizabeth and visited London in 1594 partly to refute this. The Latin inscription in the tree refers to the Roman Mucius Scaevola, who stayed true to Rome even when among its enemies. Lee implies that he too is faithful.

May 2011