Thursday, August 14, 2008

Question from Faith - Best likenesses of Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I

What do you think is the nearest likeness we have today of Elizabeth I and Anne Boleyn?

I have heard that one good candidate for the best likeness of Elizabeth is the Sieve Portrait which hangs in the Board Room at the Folger Shakespeare Library -- would you agree?

Thank you!



Elizabeth M. said...

My personal favorite of Elizabeth I is the one of her as a young woman of about 13-14, with her stylish light red dress and matching French hood. NO frills or heavy white make-up and wigs. She is just a natural, pretty young girl, and she looks a bit vulnerable in this picture. Her oval face and dark eyes reflect descriptions of her mother.
My favorite portrait of Anne Boleyn is the Hoskins miniature in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry. It just seems to bring together all the descriptions of Anne--save for the hair being auburn. The oval face, the intense dark eyes, the simple yet elegant black dress and matching French hood. She looks more like a flesh and blood woman than in the NPG picture, which to me has an amateurish harshness about it. The Hoskins to me has more of a personality coming through--she definitely has an air about her. It was said she was well aware of her sexuality, and I think that comes through in this picture, which you can view on this website in the Tudor gallery of Anne Boleyn pictures.

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth M, do you mean the portrait attributed to William Scrots that is now in the Royal Collection? (

If so, I have to agree with you. Too many of her later portraits were too carefully calculated to convey a specific pre-determined image and never intended to be faithful likenesses, inckluding the Sieve portrait. The Scrots portrait, because it was done when she was little more than a distant and very unlikely heiress to the throne, seems the least affected image of her.

Anonymous said...

Eric Ives addresses the question of the most likely representation of Anne Boleyn in his book: The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn.

He surmises that the coin and likeness created from it, are the most accurate likeness of Queen Anne. If you haven't yet read the book, I highly recommend it! It's an amazing book. And very readable.

Bearded Lady said...

Oh I totally agree with Elizabeth. I have always believed that the NPG portrait was painted by some hack with the painting talents of a 5 year old. What has always struck me as the most amateurish about it was the way the eyes are noticeable misaligned. The painting is on Lara’s site:

Another thing that has always struck me as odd is why the artist chose to portray Anne with two different sized eyes. The link above has two noticeable different sized eyes.

And check out this one too:

There it is again…one eye bigger than the other. It’s almost as if the artist was poking fun at the supposedly “goggle-eyed” queen.

The picture of Anne at Hever Castle is equally disturbing. Look at her fingers. It looks like she stuck them in a paper shredder. The artist made it look like she has six fingers.

Done purposely? ok I may be reading into it, but as a painter, I notice these things.

If you would like some more info on portraiture then I highly recommend Marillee Cody’s very informative site.

Anne Boleyn

Elizabeth was so careful of her image that she commissioned very few artists to paint her portrait and used those selected works as the master for all artists to copy. The wonderful thing about always copying the same painting is you never seem to age. (In the digital age, everyone is terribly guilty of this crime) So the younger portraits of Elizabeth show a far more human woman then the state portraits of an ageless queen.

Another link:

Also, Lara blogged recently about a newly discovered portrait believed to be Elizabeth (I can’t find the link?). This portrait also shows a younger and far less poker-faced queen. You can read some more info about it on my blog at

Elizabeth M. said...

Yes, I am referring to the one in the Royal Collection attributed to Scrots. I just love that picture. It is so simple yet so elegant. But to my mind, with her lovely outfit and dark eyes staring right at the painter, there is a sense about her that she knows who she is, a King's daughter. She is so young and pretty, but I can see where there is a sexuality in her. She had henry's red hair, but in her eyes and bearing, she was definitely her mother's daughter.