100 Days of Art History Jinjins


Queen Elizabeth I

This is a famous portrait of Queen Elizabeth. My enduring memory of making the copy is that she had way too much elaborate filigree patterning in her dress and I got pretty tired of making it by hand. But this second try at it, I wanted to study that patterning in detail rather than half-ass it as I did the first round.

Elizabeth, like many rulers, was very into using elaborate fashions to build her image and instill respect. The podcast Articles of Interest highlighted it well for me: "Elizabeth I dressed in a silhouette that almost made her look like an insect...the idea of that dress at that time was to establish her position on the throne and the institution of monarchy itself...The look was otherworldly. Intentionally saying, 'I am not like you.'" She had portraits made to cement this image to the wider populace. Hence all that elaborate decoration.

In retrospect, if I'd known about it, I probably would have also done a copy of the Rainbow Portrait. It features the queen holding a rainbow in her hand to indicate command of the world, and wearing a dress decorated with eyes and ears to signal that she hears and sees all. Now that's what the kids call "drip". I learned about this outfit from the podcast Dressed: A History of Fashion which had a fun episode on Tudor fashion.

Until this project, I somehow didn't put together that Elizabeth I is the daughter of notorious six-wife-haver Henry VIII and infamous royal homewrecker Ann Boleyn, but once I did realize that it made sense. Like her parents, Queen Elizabeth grabbed power and changed England.

Final random thought--just as with a few other entries, Queen Elizabeth's famous red hair stands out against the dark background, whereas my black hair blends in. I had to change the background a little bit to make this same image work for myself.

My last 10 entries were redos of paintings I'd attempted at the beginning so that I could compare progress and give the original artworks their proper due. You can see my first swing at Queen Elizabeth at entry 33.

Reference image is from Wikipedia. It is now in the National Portrait Gallery.

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