Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I

Nicholas Hilliard, Between about 1573 and 1575

WAG 2994

About this object

In this portrait of the queen, aged about 41, she is treated almost like a religious icon. Elaborate symbolism and rich detail show off her status and royal qualities. Her figure is stylised and her face mask-like. She is shown against a flat background with little attempt to convey spatial depth.

The mother pelican on her brooch is a traditional Christian symbol of Christ's sacrifice. It was believed that the pelican fed her young with her own blood. Here such a symbol refers to Elizabeth's role as a mother to her people.

Hilliard was miniature painter to Elizabeth I (a style also known as 'limning'). This work relates closely to his miniature portrait of 1572 but might be by a follower using Hilliard's designs.

Object specifics

  • Artist(s)
    Attributed to Nicholas Hilliard (British: English, born:about 1547, died:buried 7 January 1619)
  • Date
    Between about 1573 and 1575
  • Materials
    Cloth; Oil
  • Measurements
    canvas/support: 78.7 cm x 61 cm
  • Physical description
    Potrait of Queen Elizabeth.
  • Related people
    Nicholas Hilliard (Artist/maker)
  • Other number(s)
    WAG Inventory Number: 2994
  • Credit line
    Presented to the Walker Art Gallery by Alderman E Peter Voues in 1945
  • Location
    Walker Art Gallery, Room 01
  • Collection
    From the Walker Art Gallery collections
Object view = Fine Art
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