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Queen Elizabeth I and the Hampden Portrait.

Along with royal progresses, Elizabethan tournaments, and literary works, royal portraits and emblematic miscellany collections contain informative displays of religious, political, and moral virtues associated with the reign of England's preeminent monarch: Elizabeth I. Written almost two decades after Thomas Palmer's Two Hundred Poosees (c. 1564-5), Geffrey Whitney's A Choice of Emblemes (1586), with its praise of English "martial heroes" and members of "an exemplary society," demonstrates how the emblem tradition could be used to enhance English identity and reputation. The religious, political, and moral virtues praised by Whitney in A Choice "sets up before the envious gaze of Europe the image of an England flourishing in peace and prosperity under the auspices of a righteous and merciful sovereign" (Manning 6). (1) In the popular emblematic miscellany collections prevalent throughout the Renaissance on the European Continent and in England, the tripartite motto, picture, and verse work collectively together and would have held pointed meanings for early modern audiences. Contemporary theorists, such as Henri Estienne, the author of The Art of Making Devices (trans. 1646), defined the emblem as "a sweet and morall symbol which consists of pictures and words, by which some weighty sentence is declared" (qtd. in Raybould 253).

Reading the symbols of the Hampden Portrait (c. 1563-4) (2) of Elizabeth I in light of the verbal and visual iconography of Palmer's Poosees, among other works, can help recapture meanings previously accessible to Elizabethan contemporaries but perhaps not immediately discernable to modern audiences. The Hampden Portrait and Palmer's Poosees provide evidence of the ways in which England, in the early years of the new monarchy, conceptualized its unique dynastic and religious identities so as to replace its Catholic past with a new climate in which a desired consensus could be reached in politics and religion: "The role of the emblem in the visual arts was perhaps even more important than the manuscript collections because its impact was arguably both more direct and pervasive" (Daly and Silcox 203). Interpretive meanings suggested by the elaborate visual and aural displays of these early modern works would have served to reinforce Elizabeth's iconic status as a monarch with legitimate dynastic and religious credentials.

The Hampden Portrait, with its emphasis on elaborate display and the use of symbolic secular and religious iconography, stands as an early declaration of royal position and power that complements its visual display of female fecundity and availability. The Hampden Portrait's symbols promote Elizabeth's claim to the English throne along with her divinely ordained role as Defender of the Faith. Clark Hulse observes that "Renaissance people were obsessed with the metaphors of self, with the objects, whether verbal or material, that stood for people, collectively and individually" (158). The Hampden Portrait participates in this obsession in its conscious display of the Queen's status as Queen Regnant and Supreme Governor.

Previously attributed to Steven van der Meulen, an Antwerp artist who flourished at the Tudor court throughout the 1560's, the Hampden Portrait has more recently been attributed by Bendor Grosvenor to another artist working in the Anglo-Flemish tradition. Grosvenor places the Hampden Portrait's provenance in the "Anglo-Flemish School, c.1563/4, Attributed to the Dutch artist 'Steven'" (Grosvenor, "The Hampden Portrait"). He emphasizes the existence of another Dutch artist, Steven van Herwijck, working in England and on the Continent, an artist "clearly well regarded and [better] known throughout Europe" than van der Muelen (Grosvenor, "The Hampden Portrait"). (3)

For my reading of the Hampden Portrait, it is sufficient that Grosvenor places the painting in the Anglo-Flemish School. The northern Flemish style of portraiture constituted a new approach to painting, in which minute attention to detail along with the inclusion of symbols, which possess several readings, combine to create unique artistic meanings. In terms of how to read these works of art, one should consider the unity of the picture. The belief that "visible objects were infused with God" meant for Northern European artists that "virtually every object could carry iconographic (or symbolic) implications" (Benton and DiYanni 72). When analyzing the symbolism of the Hampden Portrait's meticulous attention to detail and visual display, one should keep in mind that early modern Flemish painters worked to create expressive, stylistic meanings in their painting and portraiture. (4)

In the Hampden Portrait Elizabeth wears two large framed jewels, with the jewel at the bottom being capped by an armillary sphere. The iconographic symbol of the sphere, as is well documented, appeared regularly throughout Elizabeth's reign, but its early occurrences in both the Hampden Portrait and Palmer's Poosees, as will be seen, connects for a community of early modern contemporaries viewing the painting both Elizabeth and Dudley in matters of both statecraft and religion. Capping the diamond with an armillary sphere would for contemporary early modern viewers have associated fortitude with virtuous conduct and prudent rule.

Perhaps one of the most immediate associations for early modern viewers with the Hampden Portrait's display of gemstones, especially the diamonds, would have been with the poem Elizabeth had inscribed on her window, using a diamond, at Woodstock: "Much suspected by me, / Nothing proved can be, / Quoth Elizabeth prisoner." (5) John Foxe's Acts and Monuments had recently been published in London in 1563 (Strong, "Queen's Portraits" 32); (6) therefore, the inclusion of Elizabeth's poem "Written with a Diamond on her Window at Woodstock" in Foxe's collection would have ensured contemporary knowledge of a resolute Elizabeth who felt secure enough to embrace her own values and beliefs while subscribing to self-government and the true faith.

Other familiar, long-standing symbolic connotations, such as those frequently associated with "a specific literary genre of Lapidarium (from Latin lapis--stone) [that] ... treated symbolic virtues and properties of stones and minerals," (7) would have endowed the painting with additional historical, connotative meanings. For example, the gemstones gain significant meanings when read in terms of medieval treatises on gemstones: the medical prose lapidary and the Christian symbolic lapidary, both by Marbode of Rennes (c. 1035-1123). Marbode's De Lapidibus sheds further light on the diamonds Elizabeth wears and on the gemstones that appear painted on the cloth of state. (8) Throughout the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance, the diamond symbolizes fortitude because of its hardness. The diamond, with its well-known association with fortitude, appears in two emblems in Palmer's Poosees--Emblems 167 and 168--where the diamond's force will allow nothing to overcome its strength.

While Marbode does not list any specific virtues for either the pearl, other than its value as an ornament (35), or the ruby (carbuncle), he does attribute Christian symbolism to the sapphire. The cloth of state that appears behind Elizabeth is encrusted with diamonds, rubies, and sapphires, which "[have] the sky's color. [The sapphires signify] those who ... aspire for heavenly things, and who despise all worldly matters.just as if they were not on the earth, thus: 'Our commonwealth is in heaven' [Philip. 3:20]" (Marbode, De Lapidibus 125).

Elizabeth, as the representative of the Protestant faith, "was at the center of religious reform and debate" (Stump and Felch 108), and the display of symbolic objects in the Hampden Portrait works collectively to express the Queen's recognition of her role:

An indication of Elizabeth's own personal devotion in this period may be seen in the Latin prayers published under her name in 1563, possibly to commemorate her recovery from a serious case of smallpox in October of the previous year. The Precationes Privatae, or private prayers, show the young Queen in postures of gratitude and petition, thanking God for soundness of body and mind and praying for wisdom to guide her people, but they also show her confidence in her role as England's monarch and the seriousness with which she undertook her responsibilities. (Stump and Felch 109)

Given "the view [that] has recently prevailed that Elizabeth was indeed a sincere and committed Protestant," one should consider, as Patrick Collinson and others have conceded, that the Queen's personal beliefs might remain impossible to uncover; indeed, her posture as Defender of the true Faith may have been a rhetorical stance fashioned so as not to compromise her various relationships (Collinson 705-06). Through a variety of public performances and publications, Elizabeth's subjects frequently engaged in opportunities to offer the Queen advice in order to promote an agenda. When Lady Elizabeth Tyrwhit's collection of Morning and Evening Prayers, with Divers Psalms, Hymns, and Meditations (c. 1574) was published, her "prayer for the Queen mingled entreaty, praise, and advice in a short invocation"; further, Lady Tyrwhit "also urged the Queen toward 'all goodliness and virtue,' and in doing so suggested that Elizabeth herself had a responsibility to maintain God's 'true and holy religion'" (Stump and Felch 227). Whether or not Elizabeth "in her natural self was a convinced and devoutly Protestant Christian (and what kind of a Protestant), and whether that impinged perceptively upon her public self, and policy" (Collinson 705), is not the point of the question with which I am concerned. My interest lies in how the painting's use of symbolism may have served as a rhetorical strategy meant to establish Elizabeth's regency and to validate her power and authority.

Because the Hamden Portrait participates in the elaborate network of courtly display, it arguably stands as an iconic representation of the Queen's several public guises: marriageable Queen, divinely ordained Queen Regnant, and Supreme Governor of England's church. In discussing the role of royal portraits of the Queen, Sir Roy Strong observes that, while "measuring their effectiveness as a political tool in their own age" remains problematic,

[i]n an age when the portrait was still a novelty pertaining only to a narrow section of society, the revelatory nature of these royal images cannot be overestimated. That this was so can be substantiated by an approach first through the Renaissance concept of the dynastic portrait, and secondly, and crucially, through a study of the unique role that they came to occupy in a Protestant country which had rejected other forms of holy image as idolatry. ("Queen's Portraits" 762)

The role the Hampden Portrait played in court display would have been efficacious for its time when primary matters at the forefront of concern focused on the status of the succession, the monarchy, and the church.

The decorative accents displayed on the sleeves of Elizabeth's gown visually signal her love for her people and the sacrifices she is willing to make to uphold the Protestant religion and protect her subjects as God's divinely appointed representative. A small but important detail easily overlooked appears in the close attention given to the rendering of the pearls embellishing the Queen's dress. In Christian symbolism "the Pearl signifies humility, purity, innocence, and a retiring spirit" (Jones 94). As a highly valued and precious jewel, the pearl "is used as a symbol of salvation, which is worth more than all the treasures of the earth" (Ferguson, "Pearl" 43). (9) Here, the pearl accents depicted in between the slashes in the sleeves of Elizabeth's dress are shown in the form of a cross, with the arms formed around a central axis. The gems that appear in the detailed pattern on the dress sleeves are also diamonds, which recalls the Queen's pictorial association with fortitude. These recurring decorative embellishments, indicated by the cruciform shapes of the pearls, signify Christ's sacrifice and His love for humanity. (10) By association, the decorative details on the Queen's sleeves indicate Elizabeth's willingness to make sacrifices in governing her kingdom, so as to establish England's religious settlement. This may, indeed, be visual propaganda conceptualized by those responsible for commissioning the portrait. Irrespective of how Elizabeth personally felt, in the early years of her reign Elizabeth embodied hope secured after adversity endured, and that hope entailed the coveted resolution of the succession crisis through a suitable marriage, the establishment of a legitimate monarchy, and the settlement of the religious question.

When interpreting the painting's color schemes, one can find support for both dynastic and religious meanings. Grosvenor has identified the abundance of the painting's red and white coloring in the Queen's choice of dress, for example, as symbols of Elizabeth's Tudor heritage deriving from the "union of the house of Lancaster (the red rose) with the house of York (the white rose), which had been achieved by the marriage of her grandparents, Henry VII and Elizabeth of York." The Tudor rose also appears in the interlinked rose details in Elizabeth's collar (Grosvenor, "The Hampden Portrait"). The Queen's attire, with its pearl and diamond decorated sleeves, symbolizes her dynastic and religious roles, and the rose tucked into a frame of green oak leaves that appears on her shoulder, alludes to her dynastic heritage as heir to the Tudor dynasty, while it also associates her with Dudley's strength and support.

The lavish quantity of gold used in the execution of the portrait "exceeds the amount known" to have appeared "in any other English portrait" contemporary with the Hampden Portrait, according to Grosvenor. His association of the affective impact of Elizabeth's portrait with that of a religious altarpiece is intriguing ("Hampden Portrait" 2). In paintings of Byzantine origin, "the backgrounds of Byzantine icons are gilded [with gold] ... as a reflection of heavenly light." In Christian symbolism, "gold is one of the symbols of Jesus, the Light, the Sun and the Dayspring" (Chevalier & Gheerbrant). When reading and viewing emblematic displays in manuscript collections,

Contemporary theorists emphasized that the meaning of the trope, the object of the sign, should neither be too obvious nor too obscure. On one level this injunction was intended to enhance the intellectual pleasure of the emblem reader, but, more importantly, it was to provide an ambiance of meditation and mystery, a mystery which has been perceived as a step, perhaps the necessary or final step, in the process of the approach to and appreciation of the nature of reality and of God. (Raybould 250)

The Hampden Portrait's elaborate display of color symbolism combines to promote an appreciation of Elizabeth's role as the "Handmaid of God and Queen of Heaven (England)" (Grosvenor, "The Hampden Portrait" 2) and privileges, upon reflection, her association with the recent religious settlement. The overwhelming appearance of three distinctive colors being highlighted against the gold background can further be interpreted in terms of generally accepted, intelligible religious symbols associated with the traditions of the emblem, the imprese, and the visual arts.

The abundance of white, green, and red colors in the painting would additionally have underscored concepts beyond dynastic claims for contemporary audiences. In Paolo Giovio's dialogue on imprese, for example, Lorenzo, the Magnificent, carried an imprese that consisted of three distinctly colored feathers--white, green, and red--which correspond to the three theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity, respectively, an imprese his Medici successors also bore, even the Pope (47). Cesare Ripa's Iconologia also associates the color red with charity: "The red Colour denotes Charity; the Spouse in the Canticles was pleased with it in her Beloved" (Ripa, Figure 46); green with hope: "A young Woman clad in green" (Figure 287); and "White signifies the Purity of the Trinity" (Figure 97) (Ripa, 12, 25, 72). A well-known association of green with both hope and fertility appears in the green dress worn and being gathered up by the bride in the Arnolfini Portrait (c. 1434) by Jan van Eyck (c. 1390-1441) (Harbison 11-13). Queen Elizabeth is similarly associated with the theological virtue of Hope on the frontispiece of the first printing of the Bishops' Bible (c. 1568), with personifications of Faith and Charity appearing on either side of the Queen's portrait.

The Hampden Portrait was commissioned at a time when Elizabeth's advisors had begun to worry about her unwed status in her early 30's. Symbolically, the portrait constitutes a visual bid to demonstrate the Queen's fruitfulness and availability for marriage. Its colors and symbols would certainly have produced a striking visual representation of the Queen, especially with its impressive dimensions (77 1/4 x 55 1/4 inches, 196 by 140 cm). (11) Critics agree that the portrait played a role in urging the Queen to take a royal consort and produce an heir to the throne of England. The press release from Sotheby's describes the painting in the following terms:

Aside from its importance as the earliest known full-length depiction of England's queen, the painting is also of special importance in that it is thought to have been created expressly to help the queen in her quest to find a royal suitor--a kind of advertisement both of her beauty and of her fertility. Showing the queen against a background of luscious fruits and flowers, and holding a carnation--a symbol of betrothal--the painting would have signaled all the right messages (of wealth, fidelity, beauty, and fertility) to potential suitors, of whom--it seems--there were many. (12)

Grosvenor agrees, pointing to "the most obviously symbolic area of the picture," the lush panel of fruits and vegetables, which he interprets as "a prominent allusion to the Queen's marriage potential," calling attention to the ripe, open pomegranate and the peas literally "about to burst out from their pod, all of which are obvious symbols" of the Queen's fruitfulness and "ability to bear children" ("The Hampden Portrait"). Drawing further attention to Elizabeth's speech, "given in the House of Lords on 10 April 1563" ("The Hampden Portrait"), in which she assures petitioners that they are misinformed if they believe she will not marry, Grosvenor notes Elizabeth's comment: "I had thought it had been so desired as none other tree's blossoms should have been minded or hope of my fruit had been denied you" (qtd. in "The Hampden Portrait"). (13)

In general, fruit symbolizes good luck, evidence of God's blessing and fecundity. As with most symbols, the viewer/reader can construe meanings in different ways. Apples, for example, have been frequently associated with the biblical Song of Songs, as symbols of love, but also as the vehicle for the first sin of mankind (Hall, "Apple") when Satan tempts Eve to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Appearing above the framed pear in the portrait's panel is a pomegranate, with an iris depicted below the pear. The shape of the pearl suspended from the diamond's setting echoes the shape of the framed pear in the garden scene, a highly charged sexual image that indicates, like the pomegranate, the ability to bear offspring (Becker, "Pear"). In Christian art, another association of the pear lies in its "connection with the Incarnate Christ, in allusion to His love for mankind" (Ferguson, "Pear" 36). The pomegranate, with its profusion of seeds visually apparent in the rind's opening, has since Classical times symbolized fertility and abundance, since it could reproduce seeds prodigiously. Once Persephone eats a pomegranate seed, she must return to her husband, Hades; the consumption of the fruit's seed symbolizes in mythology the transformation from virgin to wife. Along with fertility, immortality and resurrection also have contemporary, early modern symbolic associations with the pomegranate (Hall, "Pomegranate").

The abundant floral motifs in the garden panel similarly participate in a variety of interpretive readings. For example, the carnation may be viewed as a "symbol of betrothal" or as a symbol of the "Handmaid of God and the Queen of Heaven (England)." According to Grosvenor, the carnation Elizabeth holds in her right hand is, in Greek, a dianthus which means the lover of God. The carnation was an attribute of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Here it alludes to Elizabeth being the Handmaid of God and the Queen of Heaven (England). She was not only Queen but the supreme governor of the Church of England, which she had reestablished in 1559 on breaking with Catholicism. At first sight, to our modern eyes, such allusions may appear sacrilegious. But whoever saw the portrait in the 1560s, in the years following the new Church Settlement, whether Catholic or Protestant, the subtlety of the allusions would have been instantly recognizable. ("The Hampden Portrait")

A floral motif of an open flower appears on the cloth of state, which visually echoes the floral motif of the honeysuckle that can be discerned in the garden panel, a symbol of acute sensibility. (14) According to Rembert Dodoens, doens, writing in A Newe Herball (Antwerp 1578), a medical virtue associated with honeysuckle (a.k.a. woodbine) is to improve a person's hearing, thus, by association, indicating that Elizabeth possessed acute senses, and the knowledge and wisdom gained as a result. The rose, universally a symbol of purity, hope, beauty, and love, here has associations with the Wars of the Roses and the Tudor rose, with its combined red and white rose. It connotes the authority of the royal Tudor dynasty that Elizabeth wields as England's queen. The iris, "very often the flower of the Virgin, instead of the lily, in early Netherlandish paintings" (Hall, "Iris") (15) either alludes to virginity or to the rainbow. The second reading of the iris as the "radiant and refulgent Bow of Heaven" (Holtgen 92) remained commonplace enough in the early modern period for Henry Hawkins, a Jesuit emblematist, to adapt the image for its religious symbolism in his Partheneia Sacra (1633) (Holtgen 92-9), indicating that both Catholics and Protestants could fashion long-standing Biblical symbols to connote unity, pardon, and "the reconciliation given to the human race by God" (Ferguson, "Rainbow" 43). The iris, as a religious symbol, implies the reconciliation between God and man, and by association to the reconciliation between the Queen and her subjects.

Given the positioning and close proximity of the pomegranate and the iris in the garden panel of the Hampden Portrait, early modern viewers could view these symbols through the Renaissance lens of anamorphosis, a kind of perspective reading noteworthy for its dual nature, as applied, for example, by Cleopatra to Antony's character in Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, when she laments that "Though he be painted one way like a Gorgon, / The other way's a Mars" (2.5.166-7). (16) For early modern viewers and readers, the specific fruits and flowers that appear in the garden panel conveyed specific religious values. Depending on the viewer, the Hampden Portrait could symbolize the Queen's sexual allure and fruitfulness and/or her association with resurrection and salvation.

While the images in the garden panel convey meanings beyond the scope of this essay, perhaps one more example of the frequency with which these plants appeared in a religious context may be useful. Readers can turn to the intriguing frontispiece associated with the second printings of the Bishops' Bible (c. 1568-9). (17) As previously noted, the first edition of the Bishops' Bible showed two of the three theological virtues beside a portrait of the Queen on its frontispiece. A second edition of the Bishops' Bible, printed in 1569, this time represents Elizabeth seated on her throne accompanied by personifications of other equally significant virtues: Justice, Mercy, Fortitude, and Prudence, replacing the Cardinal virtue of Temperance with Mercy. In the two printed frontispieces, the Queen, by association with these virtues, visually represents a striking image of England in its early years of Elizabeth's reign as a realm under the governance of an ideal Prince. What is particularly interesting about the second frontispiece is the inclusion of a symbolic garden scene framing the top half of the portrait, a panel that resembles the floral panel in the Hampden Portrait. Adorned with symbolic grapes and other succulent fruits, the 1569 frontispiece of the Bishops' Bible displays a verdant cover housing spiritual sustenance to be enjoyed by believers. In paintings from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, grapes symbolize the idea of the vital union between believers and Christ and among each other, with the vine and its branches alluding to John 15.5 ("I am the vine, ye are the branches") (Shepherd 52). Grapes appear among the fruits and flowers in the Hampden Portrait, as well. The grape's juice, associated symbolically with the saving blood of Christ, evokes the idea of Christ's blood and sacrifice with the juice of the grapes (Hall, "Grapes"). At the bottom of the Bishops' Bible's richly symbolic frontispiece appear the words "GOD SAVE THE QVEENE." A group of Elizabeth's courtiers have gathered to listen to a sermon. Rather than speculating as to the identity of any specific individual being represented, the symbolism of the gathered courtiers supporting the Queen's reign and upholding the faith speaks with elegant simplicity through a single gesture, as one courtier's foot is placed directly above the word "SAVE," framed by the words "GOD" and "THE QVEENE," thereby privileging the concept of salvation earned through God's grace.

The personified virtues that appear in the second edition of the Bishops' Bible each carry symbolic attributes, several of which appear in later Elizabethan portraits of the Queen, establishing their currency of use and meanings in the early modern period. Justice holds a sword, Mercy a book, Fortitude a pillar, and Prudence a serpent. Many of these same symbols recur in Elizabethan portraiture, such as the sword in Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder's Peace Portrait (c. 1580-85) and Nicholas Hilliard's Ermine Portrait (c. 1585), and the serpent with an armillary sphere above its head in Isaac Oliver's Rainbow Portrait (c. 1600), among many others, indicating an obsession with those visual "metaphors of self" that Hulse mentions.

The Hampden Portrait presents visual florilegia that display the Queen's multiple identities. A reading of the combined symbols of the Hampden Portrait in Christian terms includes her association with the virtues of fortitude, prudence, wisdom, faith, hope, and charity. The Hampden Portrait's elaborate composition and richly suggestive symbolic iconography may arguably have been informed by multiple reasons for its initial commission: a wish to advertise the Queen's potential marital prospects; a movement to rescue Elizabeth's image from unflattering representations, in light of "the draft proclamation of 1563" intended as "the first of a succession of attempts to control royal portraiture," as unflattering images had been circulating (Strong, "Queen's Portraits" 749); and the desire to promote Elizabeth as England's legitimate monarch (Queen Regnant) and protector of the reformed faith (Supreme Governor).

Given the nuanced relationships that existed between viewers and subject matter in the early modern period, the elaborate systems of Elizabethan court display function symbolically on numerous levels; in doing so, they necessarily call forth several meanings for the parties involved. The symbols in the Hampden Portrait carry meanings associated with Elizabeth's official dynastic and religious identities that complement the visual expression of her fertile potential. In addition to the urgency felt by the Queen's advisors over her marital prospects, the Elizabethan religious settlement--The Act of Supremacy and the Act of Uniformity--was still in its early stages, having been recently implemented in the summer of 1559, and having only passed by a narrow margin of three votes. (18) A controlled representation of the Queen's image in the Hampden Portrait (c. 1563-4) could as part of its appeal have influenced acceptance of the new religious settlement while also legitimizing Elizabeth's dynastic status as Queen Regnant, two issues with prominence equal to that of the succession crisis and the matter of the Queen's marriage in the early years of Elizabeth's reign.

The depiction of the motto associated with the knights of the Order of the Garter may be intended to highlight Elizabeth's royal supremacy, thereby evoking her civic and religious status as England's Queen Regnant and Supreme Governor. The words "mal y pense" appear on the banner wrapped around the Tudor rose, which can be seen underneath the throne. In his note on "The Hampden Portrait," Grosvenor calls attention to the reproduction of Elizabeth's portrait "at her most 'official' (in front of the royal coat of arms, a cloth of state and the throne)". The throne upon which Elizabeth rests one arm has inscribed above it two significant mottos, the first of which displays the complete motto of the Order of the Garter: Honi soil qui mal y pense ("shame to him who evil thinks"). On either side of the motto and heraldic shield (quartered with the royal arms of England and France, the lions rampant and the fleur-de-lis) appear a crowned lion to the right and a winged dragon on the left, symbolizing, respectively, regal authority and Elizabeth Tudor's Welsh heritage, along with its connection to Arthurian legend. Additionally, the knights of the Order of the Garter, formed on the 23rd of April in 1348 by Edward III, are associated with England's patron, Saint George, who is symbolically linked to slaying the dragon, a medieval symbol with connotations of evil. (19) The potential of royal power's ability to suppress evil through the Queen's association with the Order of the Garter may have visually privileged for some insightful viewers of the Hampden Portrait an informed reading of the Elizabethan triumph of Protestantism over Catholicism.

Below the heraldic shield with its motto taken from the Knights of the Garter, but still positioned above the throne, appears in capital letters the motto--"DIEU ET MON DROIT"--which translates as "God and my right." The phrase rhetorically moves the portrait away from advertising marital availability to a statement of Elizabeth's rightful inheritance to the English throne and, therefore, her position as the promulgator of English law, with both mottos combining to create and reinforce a pointed statement regarding her duty as the guardian of her country towards its citizens and their religious beliefs. As England's anointed Queen, Elizabeth had a lot to offer and could entice potential suitors to profit politically from an English alliance. Obviously, part of the Queen's marital appeal derived from her dynastic inheritance and authorized credentials; however, while viewers could interpret the Hampden Portrait as Elizabeth's intent to advertise her marital availability, rather than waiting for a suitor to occupy her vacant throne, in another interpretation, Elizabeth indisputably owns and governs that throne for the benefit of her people, as the portrait's iconographic symbols indicate, as God's anointed Queen Regnant and Defender of the Protestant Faith.

The connection of Palmer's emblem book with some of the Hampden Portrait's iconographic details establishes a rhetorical strategy intended to present Elizabeth in several guises, public and private, accessible to the gaze of a watchful Europe and to those of her inner circle familiar with such collections as Palmer's Poosees. Throughout his collection, for example, Palmer's emblems function didactically, emphasizing, for his dedicatee and other readers, several religious themes of current interest for Elizabeth and her subjects: the necessary self-governance that encourages the reader to kill those affections that keep him from Christ, the ways in which the efficacy of preaching may be undercut by a pastor's bad life, the resurrection to be enjoyed by true believers, and the promise of God's pledge: by painting the sky with His rainbow, He will not forsake those who call on His mercy. (20) This last reference, which occurs in Emblem 119, further connects Palmer's message with the iconographic symbol of the iris that appears in the Hampden Portrait, calling to mind again the ideas of resurrection and salvation, God's pledge. Contributing to the complex interplay of court display that was part of the fabric of the Elizabethan tapestry of visual and aural expression, Palmer's Poosees merits recognition for its historical and literary primacy in England's emblem tradition. With its emphasis on the virtues and vices associated with English religion, government, and conduct, Palmer's manuscript provides readers with the ability to study areas of interest and concern, similarly reflected in the iconographic imagery of the Hampden Portrait, prominent in the early years of Elizabeth's reign.

As England's first emblematist, Palmer chose to dedicate his two centuries of emblems to Robert Dudley, the royal favorite. In doing so, Palmer found many ways to applaud Dudley. While in Emblem 5, "A poosee for a prince," with its motto of "Beare and forebeare," Palmer lauds Dudley for "the qualities he has," his courage and strength, he also indicates virtues he may not yet possess, 'A noble mynde that beares all bruntes, / besemes the royal throne"; and he warns against any qualities that would be unbecoming of someone in his position, where the reader learns that
   No suerer signe of abiectee myndes,
   then prolinge after goodes:
   A filthe, and shamefull staine to those,
   that wilbe noble bloodes (Palmer 7-8). (21)

Since the provenance of Palmer's emblem book falls within the years 1564/65, this places the manuscript during the period when Elizabeth raised Dudley to the earldom of Leicester, so he might well "beseme" a throne, either as its owner or as its supporter. Palmer's fifth emblem also stresses Dudley's strength in being able to withstand "waightye things."

In a related emblem, number 55, "An hart of oak" avers that the "The stoute and valyaunt harte of stele, / what wynde soever bloes, / Dothe shrinke no whir." Punning on the Latin word for "oak," "robur," Palmer is able to praise his dedicatee for his strength and valor. Grosvenor has this to say about Dudley's connection to the painting:

[I]t is worth examining the prominent but iconographically curious arrangement of oak leaves around a red rose on Elizabeth's ... shoulder. The placing of oak leaves in place of rose leaves must be symbolically important. There seems to be no other reference to Elizabeth being portrayed as an oak, or with oak leaves on her person. But Robert Dudley is. ("The Hampden Portrait") (22) Philip Mould, Ltd., conducted a paint analysis which found that the pigment of the oak leaves, while "contemporaneous with the rest of the picture," according to Grosvenor, differs from the pigment associated with the depiction of the painting's green peas. Whether or not Dudley may have commissioned the painting to flatter the Queen or subsequently became the painting's owner remains unknown, but Grosvenor speculates that Dudley may have owned the portrait: "If the idea of Dudley placing his personal badge on Elizabeth's portrait seems sacrilegious, then one only need look at the numerous instances of similarly playful behavior between him and the Queen" ("The Hampden Portrait"). (23)

One of the most interesting shared symbols in both the Hampden Portrait and Palmer's emblem manuscript is the appearance of "the armillary, or celestial, sphere," in the early years of Elizabeth's reign, especially since the sphere's appearance in the portrait and in Palmer's fifth emblem establishes important symbolic connections between Elizabeth and Dudley and a perception, generally received, of their combined efforts to preserve England's status as a sovereign realm noteworthy for its Protestant faith, thus uniting them in matters of civic and religious concern. The armillary sphere, while "a device much in favour in the sixteenth century," has proved to be difficult to interpret since few "contemporary handbooks explaining the significance of such devices include it" (Grosvenor, "The Hampden Portrait"). (24) Grosvenor speculates that the sphere "is thought to refer to the harmony which the Queen by her uprightness and wisdom has brought, and will continue to bring, to the kingdom: the religious settlement, the ending of the war with France inherited from her sister Mary I, and, perhaps by her marriage and child-bearing, a settled succession" ("The Hampden Portrait"). Others have called attention to the symbolic meaning of the sphere as "declaring a concern for things spiritual as well as temporal" and to its function as a "sign of heavenly wisdom" connected to the reformed word of God, since its image appears in a Psalter believed to have been owned by Elizabeth (Doran 182,201). According to Susan Watkins, the combined symbolism of the armillary sphere in Elizabethan portraiture signifies "prudence or wisdom" (84). During her captivity, Mary, Queen of Scots, in "a detached square centerpiece, almost certainly once part of the Oxburgh Hangings, which is known as the Las pennas passan panel" (Bath 28), embroidered an armillary sphere in a maritime setting. Michael Bath believes that the meaning of the sphere as an instrument of navigation is intended to provide Mary with the same hope entertained by sailors, which is the hope of safe arrival after adversity. Bath translates the motto: "LAS PENNAS PASSAN Y QUEDA LA SPERANZA [Sorrows pass but hope survives]" (28). Having gained her throne after much adversity, Elizabeth, likewise, came to symbolize hope. Through her prudent, circumspect conduct, where nothing proved can be--Elizabeth safely navigated the dangerous political waters of her sister's Catholic reign.

To garner further symbolic meanings that the armillary sphere would have held for informed Elizabethan contemporaries one can turn to John Manning's note, which glosses a possible source for Palmer's fifth emblem, one deriving from Paolo Giovio's discussion of the device of Andrea Gritti. It is directed explicitly toward Leicester:

He [i.e. Andrea Gritti] had a notable Imprese, inuented by Giouan Cotta, the famous Poet of Verona: and it was the heauen with the Zodiac and the twelue Signes, borne vpon the shoulders of Atlas, kneeling on his left knee, and with his hands embracing the heauens, with a mot there aboue, Sustinet nec fatiscit [to sustain without becoming weak]. (Manning, Introduction, The Emblems vii)

While the illustration of Atlas shouldering the armillary sphere that appears in Palmer's work differs from that associated with Gritti's imprese, the illustration that occurs in Palmer's Poosees would have been familiar in England, as becomes clear by comparing it with an image from William Cunningham's Cosmographical Glasse, a work dedicated to Robert Dudley in 1559 (Heninger 4-5, 178). (25) The Calendar of State Papers, in 1559, records that Elizabeth's officers licensed a book for sea causes, a likely reference to Cunningham's work. (26) Additional state paper records call for the preservation of forests for the use of timber in ship building.

The maritime association with the armillary sphere, which still had current symbolic meaning for the Scots Queen decades later, is significant in light of the attention Elizabeth and her councilors paid, early in Elizabeth's reign, to the construction of an English naval fleet, an extension of the Henrican policy of empire building. In addition to contemporary interest in upholding the true religion, Elizabeth clearly felt that the best hope for England's preservation would come through the protection its navy could provide, a belief that would prove prescient when it came time for England to confront the threat posed by the invasion of the Spanish Armada in 1588. In his Castle of Knowledge (ca. 1556), Robert Recorde depicts on his title page "a handsome female in classical garb [who] holds a measuring compass in one hand and raises an armillary sphere in the other. From the labels (in both English and Latin) supplied for the sphere, we know this figure to be Destiny or Fate ... and she is pledged to knowledge" (qtd. in Heninger 4-5). Destiny stands firmly grounded on a cube. Recorde praises knowledge "of cosmography as the study of the unchanging heavens, the repository of knowledge and truth" (qtd. in Heninger 6). For Recorde, "cosmography was the ... stronghold of truth" (qtd. in Heninger 4).

By situating the armillary sphere in its cosmographical context, important symbolic associations occur. The visual sphere shouldered by Atlas associates Dudley with the "heroic examples of courage, fortitude and virtue" (Manning, Introduction, The Emblems vi). The visual connection with Cunningham's work on cosmography may have been intended by Palmer as a compliment, further privileging Dudley's connections with knowledge and truth. In the Two Hundred Poosees, or emblems, Palmer directed his collection to Robert Dudley in a form that John Manning refers to as "essentially private, hidden, and occult" (Introduction, The Emblems vi). As Manning argues, the "emblematist believed he inherited his art from the hieroglyphics of the Egyptian priests, who shrouded their esoteric wisdom in hieroglyphic script in order that it should not be divulged to the vulgar and unlearned" (Introduction, The Emblems vii). Iconographic portraits and emblematic miscellany collections both participated in a display of "esoteric wisdom" that could assist the learned to appreciate the mystery of nature and God. Manning observes how "as a Renaissance humanist [Palmer] seeks in his disposition of material to enlighten by placing the familiar in different and surprising contexts.... His minute and careful attention to detail might best be compared to the art of the lapidarist" (Introduction, The Emblems xviii). As a cosmographical instrument of navigation, providing hope and the promise of salvation, the armillary sphere's association with Dudley predicts that he can help navigate the Elizabethan ship of state into a safe haven through his loyal service to the crown. Elizabeth had the support of numerous capable advisors throughout her reign, but the iconographic symbols prominently displayed in both the Hampden Portrait and Palmer's Poosees point to a shared perception that both the Queen and Dudley, through their adherence to the true faith, possessed the knowledge, wisdom, and fortitude to shape the destiny of the English nation.

Situated within the provenance of the Anglo-Flemish tradition of symbolic representation that perceived God within individual objects, the Hampden Portrait participates in meanings that those familiar with the early modern traditions of the emblem, the imprese, and the visual arts would easily have comprehended. In the early years of Elizabeth's reign, the Queen and her advisors endeavored to establish a firm foundation upon which to validate the Queen's lawful inheritance of the English throne and to construct the Elizabethan religious settlement. The dynastic and religious meanings incorporated in the Hampden Portrait--the gemstones, colors, realistically painted garden panel of flowers and plants, heraldic symbols, and an early appearance of the armillary sphere--would have been both direct and pervasive to its viewing audiences. The painting's expressive iconographic symbols would have been conceptualized and promulgated by the portrait's commissioners to validate the English realm and to sanction a divinely ordained, prudent monarch with the fortitude to protect and defend the Protestant faith and with the willingness and resolve to guide her realm toward Heavenly salvation. Whatever the Queen's personal beliefs may have been, certainly she would have conferred with the painting's commissioners and artist about her iconic representation in the Hampden Portrait. The portrait's existence supports the Queen's approval of the painting's symbolic iconography, as conveyed through its suggestive visual displays. While Elizabeth's personal political and religious sentiments may remain difficult to establish with any certainty, her approval of the portrait testifies to the Queen's astute intellect, since she was capable of appreciating the value of the Hampden Portrait's rhetorical strategy that supports, through its striking visual display, those political and religious agendas that defined her early years as England's Queen Regnant and Supreme Governor.


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(1.) For a complete discussion of Whitney's penchant for adapting commonplace images and topics toward "specific individuals, historical situations, and national ideals,"(7) see John Manning's Introduction to Geffrey Whitney's A Choice of Emblemes, 1-11.

(2.) I am especially indebted to John S. Elliott-Nabarro, who initially assisted me in contacting Bendor Grosvenor, Director, Philip Mould, Ltd. The Hampden Portrait was purchased by Philip Mould, Ltd., from Sotheby's in Nov. 2007. The digital copy of the Hampden Portrait ([C] Philip Mould, Ltd.) that appears in this special issue of Explorations in Renaissance Culture was generously provided by the gallery. Message to the author. 9 Sept. 2010. E-mail. William D. Graves, a biologist, assisted me in deciphering the images that appear in the garden panel section of the painting.

(3.) For further information on the authorial debate, see Grosvenor's article on "The identity of 'the famous paynter Steven': not Steven van der Meulen but Steven van Herwijck" published in the British Art Journal, 12-17. Web. 8 Sept. 2010.

(4.) Craig Harbison's The Mirror of the Artist: Northern Renaissance Art in Its Historical Context, specifically his chapter on "Artistic Specialties and Social Developments," provides a thoughtful overview of the religious origins/functions of northern European art, 123-53. See also Kim M. Woods, et al., Viewing Renaissance Art.

(5.) "Written with a Diamond on her Window at Woodstock" can be found in Representative Poetry Online. Web. 21 Dec. 2010. Another version of the poem, "Oh Fortune, Thy Wresting Wavering State," appears in Elizabeth I and Her Age, Stump and Felch, 30.

(6.) See the note in Stump and Felch on "the original 1563 text" for the attribution of the publication date, 32.

(7.) The reference comes from "Symbolic virtues of gems" in Medieval Jewelry. Web. 29 Dec. 2008.

(8.) Grosvenor confirmed the identities of the gemstones appearing in the portrait as being diamonds, sapphires, and rubies. He noted that while some of the paint had been compromised, the gemstones could still be identified. Along with its prominence of diamonds, a few rubies and sapphires appear on the cloth of state. Message to the author. 9 Feb. 2009. E-mail.

(9.) George Ferguson, in his Signs and Symbols in Christian Art, s.v., "pearl," notes two passages from the Bible: Matt. 13:45 and Matt. 7:6, dealing with its spiritual worth and its symbolic association with "the word of God," respectively.

(10.) Ron Picco, in a private conversation June 2009, regarding Flemish portraiture, pointed this detail out to me, for which I am indebted.

(11.) Grosvenor, "The Hampden Portrait," provides the painting's dimensions.

(12.) Sotheby's Press Release, "Rare Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I Sells at Sotheby's for 2.5 Million [pounds sterling]." Web. 22 Nov. 2007.

(13.) For this quote, see also Elizabeth I: Collected Works, Ed. Leah S. Marcus, Janel Mueler, and Mary Beth Rose, 79-80.

(14.) Plate 8 appears in Mules.

(15.) Ferguson clarifies that the religious symbolism of the iris in Flemish portraiture derives from the name of the flower, which means "'sword lily' ... an allusion to the sorrow of the Virgin at the passion of Christ. Spanish painters adopted the iris as the attribute of the Queen of Heaven and also as an attribute of the Immaculate Conception," 32.

(16.) The quotation comes from the Arden Edition of Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare. For an example of how symbols can have two different meanings, see Ferguson for an anamorphic reading of gold "as the symbol of pure light, the heavenly element in which God lives ... [and] as a symbol of worldly wealth and idolatry," 42.

(17.) Michael L. Hays suggested that I look at the illustrations of the frontispieces appearing with the first two editions of the Bishops' Bible, a suggestion for which I am indebted. Message to the author. 6 Aug. 2010. E-mail.

(18.) See "The Elizabethan Religious Settlement." Web. 18 Aug. 2008.

(19.) Works to consult on St. George include the following: One Hundred Saints: Their Lives and Likenesses Drawn from Butler's "Lives of the Saints" and Great Works of Western Art and The Encyclopedia of Saints, ed. Rosemary Ellen Guiley.

(20.) See, for example, Emblems 50, 71, 87, and 119 in Palmer's miscellany collection of Poosees.

(21.) John Manning's Introduction to Palmer's Two Hundred Poosees provides a thorough discussion of the collection.

(22.) I owe the detail about Dudley's linguistic association with the Latin word for "oak" to Bendor Grosvenor, Philip Mould, Ltd., who shared his work with me, which was derived from an exhibition note on "The Hampden Portrait," 7. Message to the author. 8 Feb. 2009. E-mail.

(23.) The Waddesdon portrait of Dudley, displaying the badges of his various offices, is as highly evocative as the Hampden Portrait, especially Dudley's pose, the chair by which

he stands, and the glove he holds. See Portraits and Portraiture: Waddesdon Manor Portraits. Web. 17 Aug. 2008.

(24.) Grosvenor notes the prevalence of this symbol and the difficulty of assigning its meanings. Message to the author. 8 Feb. 2009. E-mail.

(25.) S. K. Heninger, Jr.'s, study of The Cosmographical Glass provides the source; the quote underneath the kneeling figure of Atlas comes from The Aeneid. The following is from Robert Fitzgerald's translation of the Aeneid: "Long-haired Iopas, whom mighty Atlas once had taught, lifts up his golden lyre, sounding through the hall. He sings the wandering moon; the labors of the sun; the origins of men and beasts, of water and of fire; and of Arcturus, the stormy Hyades, and the twin Bears" (I. 1010-16).

(26.) PRO, State Papers Domestic, Elizabeth. 24 Mar. 1559.
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Author:Barrett-Graves, Debra
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Date:Jun 22, 2011
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