This portrait of Elizabeth I (1533–1603) is the earliest known full-length portrait of the queen. It is unique in alluding to her status as a prospective bride, painted at a time when she was forced to address the question of marriage. She holds a carnation flower in her right hand, representing the love of God, but also love and marriage. In the background is a tapestry elaborately decorated with fruit and flowers, unusual in portraits of this period. The entwined honeysuckle flowers suggest a union, while the ripe fruit symbolise the queen’s fertility.
Gallery label, February 2016