Steven van der Meulen, Steven van Herwijck

Portrait of Elizabeth I


On display at Tate Britain

Oil on canvas, transferred from panel
Support: 1960 x 1400 mm
Private collection c/o Philip Mould Ltd
On short term loan

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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