The First Art Newspaper on the Net   Established in 1996 United States Tuesday, May 22, 2018

New Research: Mystery Snake Revealed in Elizabeth I Portrait
"Queen Elizabeth I" by an unknown artist. Oil on panel, c.1580s-90s. ©National Portrait Gallery, London.

LONDON.- Scientific detective work has revealed a mysterious coiled serpent in the hands of Queen Elizabeth I, which was painted out by the artist shortly afterwards, in a portrait at the National Portrait Gallery. It has also been revealed that this portrait of the queen, which has not been on display at the Gallery since 1921, was painted over an unfinished portrait of an unknown sitter. The revelations about this painting and three others of the Tudor queen will form a new display, "Concealed and Revealed: The Changing Faces of Elizabeth I", from 13 March at the National Portrait Gallery as part of the Making Art in Tudor Britain project led by Dr Tarnya Cooper.

The portrait of Elizabeth I with the serpent (NPG 200) was painted by an unknown artist in the 1580s or early 1590s. Degradation over time has revealed that Elizabeth I was originally painted holding the serpent, the outline of which is now visible on the surface. Paint analysis has shown that the snake was part of the original design, painted at the same time as the rest of the portrait, and Elizabeth's fingers were originally clasped around the snake (as seen in the artist's impression). At the final stage of painting a decision was made not to include this emblem, and the Queen was shown holding a small bunch of roses instead. A serpent was sometimes used to represent wisdom, prudence and reasoned judgment - all fitting attributes for a Queen - but in the Christian tradition serpents have also been used to represent Satan and original sin. The removal of the snake may therefore have been due to the ambiguity of the emblem. The snake is mainly black, but has greenish blue scales and was almost certainly painted from imagination.

It has also been revealed that the same portrait was painted over the unfinished portrait of an unknown woman. X-ray photography shows a female head facing in the opposite direction and in a higher position than the queen. The eyes and nose of the first face can be seen where paint has been lost from Elizabeth's forehead. The identity of this original sitter remains a mystery, but the unfinished portrait was very competently painted and appears to be by a different painter. This discovery confirms that sixteenth-century panels were sometimes re-used and recycled by artists. The unknown woman appears to have been wearing a French hood, fashionable in 1570-1580s, suggesting that there may have been a period of a few years before the panel was re-used for the portrait of Elizabeth I.

The four portraits in the display, Concealed and Revealed: The Changing Faces of Elizabeth I, are all from the Collection of the National Portrait Gallery, and two have not been on display for decades. The portraits date from the 1560s until just after the queen's death and they have all changed in appearance in some way since they were created. Advanced scientific techniques have helped to unlock clues as to how they would have originally looked. Each has recently undergone in-depth technical analysis as part of the Gallery's Making Art in Tudor Britain research project. The display will examine why the changes took place and the evidence this tells us about portraits of Elizabeth I and artistic practices in this period.

"Concealed and Revealed: The Changing Faces of Elizabeth I" runs from 13 March - 26 September 2010 in Room 2 of the National Portrait Gallery.

Dr Tarnya Cooper says: 'The recent technical analysis on these remarkable portraits has been critical to our understanding of Tudor painting. The portrait of Elizabeth I with a hidden serpent is a really unusual survival. Yet, it is difficult to know exactly why the serpent may have been originally included, or how common this motif might have been. The queen certainly owned jewelry and costume including emblems of serpents, which were probably understood as a symbol of wisdom. However no other portrait of Elizabeth appears to depict her holding a snake. The current condition of the picture has meant it has not been on display for decades, and this display provides an exciting opportunity to present it to the public alongside other key portraits.'

Today's News

March 5, 2010

Christie's to Offer Monumental Masterpiece by Yves Klein in New York in May

Botticelli's Rockefeller Madonna to be Sold at TEFAF Maastricht

Recent Paintings by Alex Katz on View at Timothy Taylor Gallery

United States Gives Russia Back Czar's Stolen Medallion

FBI Hopes DNA can Help Solve 1990 Gardner Museum Art Heist

Sotheby's Hong Kong to Hold Spring Sale of Fine Chinese Paintings

Thames Tunnel Reopens After 145 Years before it Closes Forever

James Murdoch Nominated to the Board of Sotheby's

New Research: Mystery Snake Revealed in Elizabeth I Portrait

Ian Ingram Showcases His Newest Body of Work at Barry Friedman

Two Major Contemporary Russian Shows Opening at the Garage

George Eastman House Names New Curator of Motion Pictures

Christie's New York Announces Bernard Goldberg Fine Arts: The Collection

Fourteen Top Australian Contemporary Artists have Been Invited to Paint "Wilderness"

Crime Exhibit Dispute Shows Families' Scars Linger

No Time Like Springtime Collection of Fine European Clocks to Highlight Auction at Bonhams

Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein Presents Three Artists with an Outstanding Oeuvre

Ansel Adams' Son Sues California Museum over Prints

Creative Time to Honor PaceWildenstein's Andrea and Marc Glimcher at Annual Art Gala

Spell-Covered Burial Chamber Found in Egypt's Saqqara

Most Popular Last Seven Days

1.- Boy and an amateur archaeologist unearth legendary Danish king's trove in Germany

2.- Exhibition at The Met illustrates what visitors encountered at The palace of Versailles

3.- Philadelphia Museum of Art opens "Modern Times: American Art 1910-1950"

4.- Exhibition at Michael Hoppen Gallery presents a cross-section of works from Thomas Mailaender's career

5.- New York's Chelsea Hotel celebrity door auction raises $400,000

6.- Stevie Ray Vaughan's first guitar drives Entertainment & Music Memorabilia Auction to nearly $2.9 million

7.- Lichtenstein's Nude with Blue Hair tops $2.4 million sale of Modern & Contemporary Prints & Multiples

8.- $6.7 million Fancy Intense Blue Diamond sets auction record at Sotheby's New York

9.- Mexico court blocks sales of controversial Frida Kahlo Barbie doll

10.- Dutch museums to conduct new research on the paintings of Pieter de Hooch

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
Editor & Publisher:Jose Villarreal - Consultant: Ignacio Villarreal Jr.
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful