Mystery portrait ID’ed: Queen Elizabeth I

February 18, 2014 at 2:27 am (british royalty, estates, fashion, news, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , )

Back in November 2013 I ran a lengthy post, hoping to ID a portrait which was a focal piece in a drawing – possibly sketched by eldest sister Augusta Smith – of some room that was wholly unidentified.

mystery lady and deer

click photo to read original post

In trying to find information about the ceiling medallions in Tring Park’s drawing room (still in situ!), I found this Hertfordshire website that I’m sure I have read before. Only, last evening, it took on new meaning! The description is all about Drummond Smith’s Tring Park, c1802:

The apartments are handsomely furnished, and in several of them there are some good paintings, among which we cannot avoid noticing a singular whole length of Queen Elizabeth, which hangs in the small drawing-room upon the right of the hall. This painting is not improbably a copy of that by Zucchero, which hangs in the palace at Kensington….

In my original post I was hoping against hope that it might have been a family member. BUT: I’ve now found an image of that very “singular whole length” portrait!

queen elizabeth

Major OMG!

Several books, like this one from 1802, describe the painting, identifying it as a Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, and one among several full-length portraits owned by Drummond (Emma’s great uncle; it is his baronetcy that Charles Joshua Smith, Emma’s eldest brother, inherited). Rather than Kensington Palace, its home is Hampton Court. But even this portrait carries some mystery: fascinating article by Francis Carr (a companion page can be read here).

So much is up for grabs: the portrait’s sitter – its artist – the date it was done. But my mystery has been solved: The room at Tring which once contained the portrait in the sketch being described as “the small drawing room upon the right of the hall.”

faces of QEI

NB: In looking for confirmation that it is indeed a portrait of QEI, I found this fab array of portraits:


  1. Kim said,

    This is fascinating, and what a thrill for you. Well done!

    • Janeite Kelly said,

      It WAS a thrill, mainly b/c I was looking for “something completely different”. But, re-reading my original blog post, I see that even the ROOM and the HOUSE was up for grabs. The painting not only puts it squarely in the layout of Tring Park, but hopefully, for my contact on-site, nails the actual room. I think this brings up THREE drawings of the interior of the house, c1830 (the Smiths lived there, in this generation, from late 1820s/early 1830s; Emma first children were born at Tring).

      Gotta really wonder about the painting, though, too. Can’t say I buy into the idea of an expectant Queen Elizabeth; Jan van Eyck’s famous portrait, for instance, glows in my memory.


      • Cat Bichi said,

        It’s masque costume! (Not pregnancy gear). Very plausibly Gheerhearts the Younger, and dating from 1600-ish, on the cusp of the centuries. As to its portraying the mature Elizabeth, Queen… well, she’d long since ceased to allow portraiture save from a template of her younger face. The verse is strong enough to be hers, admittedly :-)

        Strange how this work is so unknown – it’s a fascinating image and certainly commissioned at the highest Court echelon.

  2. Janeite Kelly said,

    FANTASTIC, Cat, that you can information on the ‘costume’ in this work. At some point this portrait (or a copy) hung at Tring Park – the only reason it exists in the drawing is the Smith girls sketched, and some of their interiors have been found. You make me want to find out more — including why it was at Tring!


    • Cat Bichi said,

      The painting itself is at Hampton Court, as you’ll know. Wondering why I was completely unfamiliar with the work I began some webbing – and the fact there’s no good image online certainly don’t help. It’s painfully hard to read, from the few bad images available.

      So, *very* hampered, & peering through a glass darkly, one would say it suggests Oliver or Gheeraerts the Younger. It’s hooching with modish iconography and metaphor. A black ribbon on which a ring is suspended from around the neck, denotes bereavement; by 1600 this emblematic signal had long been used in portraits of widows and widowers. But *not* whilst scampering about in Masque costumes!

      The online image is being used on several absurd sites informing us that Elizabeth was getting knocked up every two minutes – finding time in her sovereign politico’s schedule to give birth to Francis Bacon et al. Yes, well it’s Masque costume. Gold buskins and feather headresses never have been favoured for pregnancy. Those who see an expectant mother in this image, might ask themselves why she’s surrounded by the most utterly mournful and wretched scripts :-) And even Elizabeth, super-remarkable as she was, would find it hard to conceive at 67.

      (Incidentally, there are marvellous portraits from Elizabeth’s reign which *do* show heavily pregant Court nobles, with gleeful protruberant bellies. One being Elizabeth’s almost-almost sister, Catherine Carey.)

      Taking into account what *can* be seen, of the Tudor rose on the garment, of the Crown slipping from the hind, the mourning-ring – Elizabeth asserted in speeches throughout her life how she was “wed only to England” – and the deathish threnody inscription, one’s initial impression is this work may have been occasioned by a Court masque staged upon Elizabeth’s death. So, portrayed, is a noblewoman got up as Elizabeth and Albion both – that composite so cultivated and propagandized by the Queen throughout her reign.

      The face doesn’t look like Elizabeth’s. (Compare with what was probably the last she actually sat for, and showing her features now aged: the superb “Ditchley Portrait” from around 1592, by Gheeraerts the Younger.)

      Anyhoos, the Hampton Court website ought to set up a good legible image of this intriguing canvas.

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