The Latymer School History Magazine - page 22

The Allegorical
Portrait of Queen
Elizabeth I
Unknown Artist
1610
position of the heart is in the
snake’s mouth, symbolising
the fact that ‘she rules with
her head and not her heart’.
The eyes and ears she has on
her clothing represent that
she can see and hear all,
meaning that she hears and
watches everyone; she
knows all that is happening
in her country. The flowers
and pearls on her clothing
represent chastity and youth,
showing that will remain
‘forever young’. The rainbow
she is holding in her hand
symbolises not only peace
after a storm but also that her
wisdom can ensure peace.
There is also a jewelled glove
above her left shoulder,
which represents that men
are prepared to ‘throw down
the gauntlet’ for Elizabeth
and they will fight a duel for
her honour. Her bridal hair is
a sign of Elizabeth’s youth.
Her huge head dress,
supporting her crown,
symbolises the fact that
Elizabeth will always ensure
there is food for her people
and aid them if they are in
trouble. The large angel
wings, which are situated
above her left and right
shoulders, show that she is a
messenger of God and
possess heavenly
knowledge. She has been
given her power by God.
The Allegorical Portrait of
Queen Elizabeth I was
painted after her death.
Historians say that this is a
more realistic depiction of
Elizabeth as she approached
her death. When she was
alive, she would only accept
a painting if it contains lots of
symbolism, and depicted her
as a young, pretty and clever
woman. The blue and grey
colours represent the
atmosphere of her
impending death. The
cherubs in the air are lifting
her crown up, demonstrating
that she is no longer
monarch. She is also shown
as flaccid and weak as she is
slumped in her chair. The
portraits throughout her life
have all shown her with
features that show her as
young, for example her skin
did not show any signs of her
getting old, but in reality she
was quite old. In this portrait,
her skin is sagging and gaunt
reflecting her age. On the
left of her, Father Time is
looking over her and Death
is looking over her right. The
artist has painted death and
time metaphorically.
Throughout her reign, her
portraits became more
ostentatious and more
ludicrous. As Elizabeth grew
older her real appearance
needed to be disguised
more and more. She caught
smallpox in 1562 which left
large scars on her face. By
the 1590s, her teeth had
turned black, she had lots of
wrinkles and had to wear a
wig because she had lost her
hair. Her portraits became
grander that eventually,
Elizabeth’s portraits made
her look more like a goddess
than a human being.
Elizabeth wanted it to be that
way so her subjects actually
didn’t know how the ‘real’
Elizabeth I actually looked
like. Historians now call
Elizabeth’s portraits as a
‘propaganda machine’, as
she wanted to impress her
subjects through her
portraits.
Elizabeth I died on 24 March
1603, at her palace at
Richmond. She was buried in
Westminster Abbey beside
her grandfather Henry VII.
King James VI came
from Scotland to
become James I of
England. The
Stuarts had taken
over from the
Tudors.
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