Thursday, May 23, 2013

Bess to Impress: The Hampden Portrait

 
The Hampden Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, c. 1563. Attributed to Steven van der Meulen. Philip Mould Fine Paintings. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.


The Hampden Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I was painted c.1563 and is attributed to Steven van der M eulen. Its existence was first documented in the 19th century, when it was still part of the private collection at Hampden House, which also included a portrait of Queen Elizabeth that had been intended as a gift for Mary, Queen of Scots, and a portrait of Queen Mary I (Burke, 186). The portrait was originally given as a gift from Queen Elizabeth to Griffith Hampden to commemorate her visit to Hampden House; this was a typical way in which Queen Elizabeth demonstrated her gratitude to those who housed her and her extensive retinue on progress. The Hampden Portrait was sold at auction through Sotheby's in London on the 22nd of November, 2007. It was purchased by Philip Mould Fine Paintings of London for 2,596,000 pounds!

Through his studies of the portraits of Queen Elizabeth I, Sir Roy Strong has determined that The Hampden Portrait is one of the first portraits of Queen Elizabeth I to include a political agenda, since she had only just survived a brush with death due to smallpox, and needed to reassert her authority. In the portrait, Queen Elizabeth I wears a red and white dress; this was likely purposeful, chosen to signify the unity of the House of York and the House of Lancaster through the marriage of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, which brought relative peace to England after years of dynastic struggle (a series of wars posthumously known as the Wars of the Roses) and established the illustrious Tudor dynasty. To further the message, the Queen wears a Tudor rose corsage and Tudor rose collar around her neck. The pendant worn by the Queen appears to be one of the Arundel gems, later acquired by the Duke of Marlborough in the 18th century. The tapestry in the background includes the Queen's heraldic arms and a tree bearing fruit, advertising Elizabeth's fertility.  

Strong has identified The Hampden Portrait as the first portrait of Elizabeth I to include the armillary sphere as a royal emblem; the sphere can be seen on the lower part of her large strand of pearls. This celestial sphere was used ad naseum in the Renaissance and was adopted by Queen Elizabeth I. Other notable appearances of the armillary sphere include:

* at the end of a French psalter given to Elizabeth when she was Princess
* on the back of a coin from about 1569
* on the Queen's sleeve in a portrait from the 1580's
* and in The Ditchley Portrait the Queen's earring is shaped like an armillary sphere

Queen Elizabeth has removed her left glove in order to display her "beautiful hand", as it was described by Giovanni Michiel in 1557 when he wrote to the Venetian Doge. In her right hand, the Queen holds a pink carnation, also known as a gilly-flower. The gilly-flower represents betrothal, and tantalizingly hints at an impending marriage, which of course never came to fruition.

The realm of England had descended into chaos for a brief time when Queen Elizabeth I contracted smallpox and nearly died in 1563. Upon recovering, there was even more pressure on the Queen to marry; in the event of illness or death, her Councillors wanted her to have an heir to carry on the Tudor line and to preserve the kingdom.

Criticism of Queen Elizabeth's apprehension to marry was at a fever pitch. Alexander Nowell, the Dean of St. Paul's, critically addressed the Queen's unmarried state at the opening of Parliament in January of 1563, saying, "All the Queen’s most noble ancestors have commonly had some issue to succeed them, but Her Majesty none … the want of your marriage and issue is like to prove a great plague." Rather contemptuously he concluded, "If you parents had been of your mind, where had you been then?" Nowell was expressing the opinions held by many, and Queen Elizabeth knew that she had to respond to relieve her people of their fears.

Queen Elizabeth I presiding over Parliament, circa 1580-1600. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Queen Elizabeth I addressed Parliament on the issue of her marriage and succession on 10th April, 1563. She also addressed the House of Lords, saying, in part,



"…the two proceedings that you presented me, in many words expressed, contained these two things: my sortie in marriage, and of your cares the greatest, my succession, of which two the last I think is best be touched, and of the other a silent thought may serve, for I had thought it had been so desired as none other tree's blossoms should have been minded or hope of my fruit had been denied you. If any here doubt that I am, as it were, by vow or determination bent never to trade that life (i.e., marriage), put out that heresy; your belief is awry. I hope I shall die in quiet with nunc dimittis; which can not be without I see some climpse (glimpse) of your following surety after my graved bones (i.e., death)."

Sotheby's has presented a possible connection between The Hampden Portrait and a portrait of Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester from c. 1564 which was formally at Apethorpe but is now in a private collection. Leicester is shown facing toward the right, and like the Queen is shown holding a glove in his hand. This hints at a link between the two portraits, especially when we consider that both of the gloves appear to be hawking gloves, and the two friends often hunted and hawked together, and also because Queen Elizabeth I and the Earl of Leicester had companion portraits painted on numerous occassions.

A portrait of Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, c.1564. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Other portraits of Queen Elizabeth I from this time include the portraits mentioned within our article about The Clopton Portrait, as well as the following:

The sitter in the The Gripsholm Portrait, painted circa 1563, is generally believed to be Queen Elizabeth I. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

The Gripsholm Portrait shows Queen Elizabeth I wearing clothing in the Italian style.

Elizabeth I and the Three Goddesses, 1569. Attributed to Hans Eworth and Joris Hoefnagel. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

The allegorical Elizabeth I and the Three Goddesses was painted in 1569. It is attributed to both Hans Eworth and Joris Hoefnagel and is part of The Royal Collection.

A detail of the Queen from Elizabeth I and the Three Goddesses, 1569. Attributed to Hans Eworth and Joris Hoefnagel. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.


Sources:


J.B. Burke. A Visitation of the Seats and Arms of the Nobleman and Gentleman of Great Britain

     Vol. I.1852.


R. Strong. Portraits of Queen Elizabeth. 1963.
       

R. Strong. Tudor and Jacobean Portraits. 1969.

"Historical Portraits Picture Archive: Portrait of Elizabeth I (1533-1603)." Philip Mould Fine

     Paintings. GalleryinaBox. Web. 15 May 2013.

"Sotheby's Catalogue Notes and Provenance: Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603)." Sotheby's 

     Important British Paintings. E-catalogue. Web. 15 May 2013.
 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

May 19th, 1536: The Execution of Queen Anne Boleyn and a Poetic Tribute

 
A statue of Anne Boleyn at the scaffold by artist George S. Stuart, from his Gallery of Historical Figures. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

On this day in Tudor history in 1536 at 8 o'clock in the morning Queen Anne Boleyn mounted the scaffold to be executed by beheading. She and her alleged accomplices had been found guilty of adultery and treason. Upon careful study, most historians and legal experts are in agreement that these were trumped up charges, and that while the trials of Queen Anne and her accomplices gave the outward appearance of due process, they were in fact a farce with a pre-determined outcome. The downfall of Queen Anne and the Boleyn faction was one of the fastest and most effective coups in history. 

Anne Boleyn is Condemned to Death, a 19th century romanticized painting by Pierre Nolasque Bergeret. Picture acquired via Flickr from Inor19.

The Tudor chronicler Edward Hall recorded the Queen's execution speech as follows:

"Good Christian people, I am come hither to die, for according to the law, and by the law I am judged to die, and therefore I will speak nothing against it. I am come hither to accuse no man, nor to speak anything of that, whereof I am accused and condemned to die, but I pray God save the King and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler nor a more merciful prince was there never; and to me he was ever a good, a gentle and sovereign lord. And if any person will meddle my cause, I require them to judge the best. And thus I take my leave of the world and of you all, and I heartily desire you all to pray for me. Oh Lord, have mercy on me, to God I commend my soul"

Anne was then blindfolded and upon kneeling she was said to have repeated several times, "To Jesus Christ I commend my soul; Lord Jesu receive my soul."

Years ago, I wrote a poem from Anne Boleyn's perspective as she looked back on her life while she awaited her execution; it was published in issue #70 of Renaissance Magazine. I have included the poem below as a personal tribute to Queen Anne Boleyn.

The Most Happy

Anne Boleyn in the Tower of London. By Edouard Cibot, 1835. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

I was a lady-in-waiting
And you could wait no longer
I caught your wandering eye
And your lust grew stronger

I was deeply in love,
But with Henry Percy, not you
But a king can have a wife,
And a mistress, too

I would give you nothing
Without a title and a crown
Your lust, it increased
But I would not lie down

For years, your beloved companion
But never your true wife
You fought with the Pope,
And gave England much strife

Never were there two
So consumed by passion
When you crowned me your queen
In extravagant fashion

You needed a son
I delivered a girl child
Your affections quickly went
From ardent to mild

I had captivated you
For nearly ten years
Your now-hostile words
Gave me great fears

Instead of coming nightly
To my royal bed
You visited my ladies
In their chambers instead

You decided it was easier
To dispose of me
Because you knew I would not 
Agree to divorce easily 

All our precious memories
And feelings were forgotten
When you said that our own daughter
Was of witchcraft begotten

You put me on trial
With erroneous accusations
Along with my own brother
And other men of high stations

My daughter, Elizabeth
Was torn from my breast
I sit in the London Tower
Condemned to death

As I mount the scaffold
You have achieved your goal
Now unto God
I commend my soul

May my good Christian friends
Keep Elizabeth under their wing
My daughter was once mine,
Now she's only the king's.

*The title is taken from Anne Boleyn's royal motto, "The Moost Happi".

Anne Boleyn Says a Final Farewell to Her Daughter, Princess Elizabeth. By Gustaf Wappers, 1838. Picture acquired via Tumblr from auroravong.

To learn more about the life and accomplishments of Queen Anne Boleyn, as well as her tragic downfall, please read my article, Anne Boleyn: Mother of the Virgin Queen.

To learn about the bond between Queen Anne Boleyn and her only child, Queen Elizabeth I, who honored her mother in many surprising ways, please read my article, Death Could Not Separate Them: How Elizabeth I Connected to Her Deceased Mother.

Tributes are left to Anne Boleyn every year on the anniversary of her execution, either at the site of the scaffold or on her supposed burial site in the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula. Picture acquired via Flickr from ThatBoleynGirl.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Bess to Impress: The Coronation Portrait

 
The Coronation Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I. Image public domain through Creative Commons licensing, NPG, London.

The Coronation Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, now in the collection of  National Portrait Gallery, was painted somewhere around 1600, copied after a now-lost original. Elizabeth I succeeded to the throne of England in 1558 and was crowned in 1559 at the age of twenty-six. In addition to the official coronation portrait, there are several miniature versions, including one attributed to Levina Teerlinc.

A miniature version of The Coronation Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Unlike most Tudor and Elizabethan portraits, Queen Elizabeth I is depicted full-face in The Coronation Portrait; this is because the coinage and royal seals for the new regime were to be based off of this image. Her hair hangs loose about her shoulders, as was typical for a queen at her coronation. Elizabeth's heavy coronation robes are decorated with Tudor roses and fleur-de-lis. The fleur-de-lis, which is the heraldic emblem of France, represents the longstanding English claim to the French throne. According to the National Portrait Gallery, these elaborate robes were not custom-made for Queen Elizabeth, but were reused from the coronation of her sister, Queen Mary I just five years before, when England still had possession of its last French territory, Calais. Mary lost Calais in the final year of her reign.

A detail from a portrait of Queen Mary I. By Anthonis Mor, 1554. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Queen Elizabeth I's cloak is trimmed in ermine, the fur that sumptuary law dictated was only to be worn by royalty. This is one of the reasons why Alison Weir and other historians have questioned the attribution of the portrait known as Mary Boleyn, as the sitter is wearing ermine, and Mary Boleyn was not of royal birth.

The identity of this portrait is in question, due in part to the sitter wearing a robe trimmed with ermine. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

In addition to projecting royal majesty in her portrait, Queen Elizabeth also embodies the standards of 16th century beauty. Queen Elizabeth is pale, as only people who had to work outdoors for a living had significant color in their skin. Elizabeth also has an unnaturally high hairline; she and other well-bred women plucked their hairlines to make their faces appear longer and thinner. Queen Elizabeth I would exaggerate these features as she aged in an effort to appear more youthful.

A detail of The Coronation Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I. Image public domain through Creative Commons licensing, NPG, London.

Sources:

Gittings, Clare. Portraits of Queen Elizabeth.  London: National Portrait Gallery Publications, 2003. 
     Print.

 
Weir, Alison. Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings. New York: Ballantine Books, 2011. Print.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Bess to Impress: The Clopton Portrait

The Clopton Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I. In the private collection of Mr. Peter James Hall. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

The Clopton Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I dates from early in her reign, circa 1560-65, before she reinvented herself as Gloriana. The portrait, by an unknown artist, is in the private collection of Mr. Peter James Hall, though there are other existent versions.

Another Clopton-esque portrait of Queen Elizabeth I by an unknown artist, circa 1560. Image public domain through Creative Commons licensing, NPG, London.

Queen Elizabeth I has purposefully donned the colors associated with a modest Protestant intellectual, black and white, in her portrait. In the system of heraldry, the tincture of black represents constancy, while the tincture of white/silver represents sincerity. Queen Elizabeth draws attention to her favorite feature, her hands, by wearing multiple rings and holding a book in her right hand and gloves in her left; Elizabeth had a fondness for fine gloves, several pairs of which have gone on display in recent years. 

An exquisite ceremonial pair of Queen Elizabeth I's gloves.

This portrait bares similarities to the portrait of Elizabeth as Princess from around 1546; In addition to being depicted with books again, Elizabeth's haunting gaze is very similar. The Clopton Portrait, painted before Queen Elizabeth's portraits included copious amounts of symbolism and her image became regulated, gives us a very good idea of what the young Queen of England actually looked like.

Other portraits of Queen Elizabeth I from this time include the following: 

A portrait of Queen Elizabeth I by an unknown artist, circa 1565. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Recently discovered in 1994 when it went up for auction, this portrait of Queen Elizabeth was painted around 1565 by an unknown artist of the British School. The portrait, sold through Christie's, is now in a private collection. Interestingly, the entire portrait, including the frame, is painted on a single piece of wood (Cody). Once again, Queen Elizabeth I is shown holding a book; below her  hand on the frame is a verse that she purportedly spoke to a Marian priest when questioned about transubstantiation,

'Twas God the word that spake it,
He took the bread and brake it,
And what the word did make it,
That I believe and take it.

A miniature portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, circa 1560-65. Attributed to Levina Teerlinc. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

A miniature of Queen Elizabeth I, circa 1560-65. Attributed to Levina Teerlinc. Part of The Royal Collection.

Another miniature portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, circa 1560-65. Attributed to Levina Teerlinc. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

A miniature of Queen Elizabeth I, circa 1560-65. Attributed to Levina Teerlinc. Part of The Royal Collection.

Sources:

Sutherland-Harris, Ann, and Linda Nochlin. Women Artists: 1550-1950. Los Angeles: Museum
     
     Associates of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1976. Print. 

 "Portraits of Queen Elizabeth." Marilee Cody. Web. 4 April. 2013.