Art Term


Elizabethan refers to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I from 1558 to 1603 which saw a flowering of the arts in Britain

Unknown artist, Britain, ‘The Cholmondeley Ladies’ c.1600–10
Unknown artist, Britain
The Cholmondeley Ladies c.1600–10
attributed to Nicholas Hilliard, ‘Queen Elizabeth I’ c.1575
attributed to Nicholas Hilliard
Queen Elizabeth I c.1575
Lent by the National Portrait Gallery, London 1965
Photo © Tate
Marcus Gheeraerts II, ‘Portrait of Captain Thomas Lee’ 1594
Marcus Gheeraerts II
Portrait of Captain Thomas Lee 1594

Although the plays of Shakespeare are perhaps the best known example of Elizabethan artistic production, painting – principally in the form of portraiture – also flourished during this period.

The Queen herself took a keen interest in her portraits, guiding artists such as Nicholas Hilliard and Marcus Gheeraerts II in the creation of stylised images of immense elegance, wealth and power. This artificial and decorative style became characteristic of Elizabethan painting in general.

Highly skilled artists often remained anonymous such as the artist who painted The Cholmondeley Ladies.