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British School, 16th century

Elizabeth I (1533-1603) c.1580-5

RCIN 405749

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Dress was a key component in the iconography of Queen Elizabeth and was used to contribute to the cult of the ‘Virgin Queen’. Pearls have been associated with chastity since the middle ages, due to their perfect purity of shape and colour – here they are used to decorate the queen’s bodice and headdress in abundance. The resemblance of a pearl to the full moon also linked Elizabeth to Diana, chaste goddess of the moon and the hunt. This portrait shows the monarch in her favoured colour scheme of black and white, colours frequently adopted by courtiers in homage to the queen. Her sleeves are covered with foliate blackwork embroidery on white linen in a variety of stitches.