Newly Discovered Portrait of Elisabeth I Reigns Supreme at Bonhams Old Master Paintings Sale

Portrait of Elizabeth I from the workshop of Steven van der Meulen. Sold for £337,563
Portrait of Elizabeth I from the workshop of Steven van der Meulen. Sold for £337,563

A previously unknown portrait of Queen Elizabeth I sold at Bonhams Old Master Paintings Sale in London today, Wednesday 4 December for £337,563. The work which was painted around 1562 came from a Californian collection and had been estimated at £150,000-250,000. The 70-lot sale made a total of £2,115,375.

Andrew McKenzie, the Director of Bonhams Old Masters department, commented, “This hugely significant early portrait of the young Queen is one of the first paintings to depict Elizabeth in an officially approved, sophisticated way. It excited a great deal of attention during the pre-sale viewing both from collectors and from members of the public who took the opportunity to see this rare depiction of one of our most popular monarchs.  I am not surprised that the bidding was so fierce, nor that the painting sold for such a healthy sum.”

The painting dates from 1562, four years after Elizabeth came to the throne on the death of her half-sister Mary I. It is one of the earliest pictures of the queen specifically designed to project a fresh and sophisticated image of her as a youthful monarch radiating a sense of authority and confidence. Portraits produced in the years immediately after her accession showed Elizabeth as stiff, lifeless, and rather dour. The artist is unknown, but circumstantial evidence points strongly to the workshop of the Flemish artist Steven van der Meulen, who was active at the Tudor court during the early part of the first decade of Elizabeth’s reign.

Other highlights of the sale included:

Portrait of a Gentleman said to be Paolo Morosini, by the Circle of Giovanni Bellini. Sold for £483,063 (estimate £30,000-50,000).
Electra offering a lock of hair to Chrysothemis by Angelica Kauffman. Sold for £112,153 (estimate £15,000-20,000).
Portraits of the 3rd Duke of Alba and the Duchess of Alba from the studio of Antonis Mor.  Sold for £112,153 (estimate £30,000-50,000).
Portrait of Robert Mayne by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Sold for £81,313. (estimate £30,000-50,000).

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments