This portrait of Queen Elizabeth I is one of the so-called ‘Ditchley’ pattern portraits. It is was painted after a larger, more elaborate portrait, once in the collection at Ditchley House in Oxfordshire and now at the National Portrait Gallery, London, painted by Marcus Gheeraert the younger. Ditchley House was the home of Sir Henry Lee (1533-1611), responsible for the supply of munitions and equipment to the army and navy as Master of the Armoury under Queen Elizabeth I. Lee was a regular patron of Gheeraert the Younger and commissioned the work on which this painting is based. There are several ‘Ditchley’ pattern portraits of Elizabeth I. Others are in the collections at Blickling Hall, Norfolk; the Pitti Palace, Florence; and Burghley House in Lincolnshire.
Marcus Gheeraerts the younger was born in Bruges and brought to England by his father, painter Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder, in 1568. He married Magdalena de Critz, sister of painter John de Critz and from c.1590 onwards, under the patronage of Sir Henry Lee, became the most fashionable portrait painter of the day. The Queen sat to him in c.1592, as did her favourite Robert Devereux, Second Earl of Essex, in c.1596. Gheeraerts also became the favourite painter of the subsequent Queen, Anne of Denmark and was receiving commissions from those within the court circle until c.1615-20. However, the painter’s career suffered with the arrival of younger artists from abroad such as Paul van Somer and Daniel Mytens.
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