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Queen Elizabeth I

Oil painting on panel, artist unknown - about 1575

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Queen Elizabeth I, portrait by an unknown artist, about 1575

This portrait of Queen Elizabeth I is now believed to have been commissioned by Elizabeth’s favourite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester in 1575. It is an oil painting on wooden boards by an unknown artist. It can be dated on stylistic grounds to about 1575-80. Portraits such as this one would have been produced in studios using designs approved and disseminated by royal authority.

Dudley commissioned two portraits of the Queen and two portraits of himself in 1575 for the Kenilworth Castle Festivities. One of the Queen and one of himself were commissioned from the Italian artist Federico Zuccaro. No artist is named for the other two paintings but the clothes that Dudley wears in his portrait are described. The inventory description matches the clothes that Dudley wears in a portrait by an unknown artist now in the National Portrait Gallery. Similarities between the style, size and pose of the National Portrait Gallery portrait of Dudley and the Reading Elizabeth I are remarkable and lead to the suggestion that these were a complimentary pair of paintings made for the Kenilworth festivities.

This portrait has long been in the possession of the Borough of Reading. Queen Elizabeth I was a great patron to the town, especially through the charter of 1560, which greatly extended its powers of self- government. Elizabeth I visited Reading on several occasions and stayed with her Privy Councillor, Francis Knollys, either in the royal apartments he leased from her in the former grounds of Reading Abbey or at his property at Caversham Park. It is possible that the painting came from one of these locations.

Museum object number REDMG : 1980.168.1

width 980 mm, height 1330 mm

See related topic: Early portraits: highlights

See related topic: Story of Reading Gallery