GHEERAERTS, Marcus the Younger
(b. 1561, Brugge, d. ca. 1636, London)

Queen Elizabeth I ('The Ditchley portrait')

c. 1592
Oil on canvas, 241 x 152 cm
National Portrait Gallery, London

Known as the 'Ditchley Portrait', this painting was produced for Sir Henry Lee who had been the Queen's Champion from 1559-90. It probably commemorates an elaborate symbolic entertainment which Lee organised for the Queen in September 1592, and which may have been held in the grounds of Lee's house at Ditchley, near Oxford, or at the nearby palace at Woodstock. After his retirement in 1590 Lee lived at Ditchley with his mistress Anne Vavasour. The entertainment marked the Queen's forgiveness of Lee for becoming a 'stranger lady's thrall'.

The portrait shows Elizabeth standing on the globe of the world, with her feet on Oxfordshire. The stormy sky, the clouds parting to reveal sunshine, and the inscriptions on the painting, make it plain that the portrait's symbolic theme is forgiveness.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.