HILLIARD, Nicholas
(b. 1547, Exeter, d. 1619, London)

Portrait of Elizabeth I, Queen of England

Oil on panel, 79 x 61 cm
National Portrait Gallery, London

Queen Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen, as she fashioned herself, controlled her never aging image. Elizabeth is an icon here. The body's volume is suppressed. Elizabeth's head and red hair are like gems placed into a sumptuous setting. Her laced collar and her jewel and pearl-encrusted dress compete for the viewers. She bears the red Tudor rose in her right hand. She also sports a jewelled Tudor rose on her chest just above a phoenix. This mythical desert-bird was a symbol of immortality and regeneration, since it would renew itself by building a funeral pyre and then rise again from its ashes. Here the phoenix functions as a symbol for her reign.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 18 minutes):
George Frideric Handel: Fireworks Music