attributed to Nicholas Hilliard

Queen Elizabeth I


Not on display
Attributed to Nicholas Hilliard c.1547–1619
Oil on wood
Support: 787 x 610 mm
Lent by the National Portrait Gallery, London 1965
On long term loan

Display caption

According to Hilliard himself, Elizabeth wanted her portraits painted in an almost shadowless style. They are not so much likenesses as symbolic representations of the monarch, emphasising her rich costumes and jewellery. Here the jewel above Elizabeth's hand is a phoenix. This mythical, unique bird, reborn out of fire, alludes to the unmarried Queen's virginity. Elizabeth holds a rose, once associated with the Virgin Mary, but also an emblem of the Tudor dynasty. Hilliard became the Queen's painter after 1570, working mainly in miniature. The present portrait relates to his miniature of Elizabeth of 1572 (National Portrait Gallery) reproduced on the wall panel nearby.

Gallery label, May 2007

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