In this portrait, painted late in her reign, Elizabeth is presented as an ageless symbol of the nation, immersed in jewels and rich costume. Tudor portraiture, in contrast to the painting of the Italian Renaissance, rarely employed realism and perspective as many Protestants were concerned that such images mimicked God’s work and were the cause of idolatry. Instead, artists relied on a rich tapestry of signs and symbols which were designed to be ‘read’ by the viewer. Here, Elizabeth wears an open-worked crown representing her sovereignty, and beneath it is the great central diamond known as the ‘Mirror of Portugal’. On her bodice is a jewel in the form of a moon, evoking Diana, goddess of the hunt and of chastity.
Queen Elizabeth I About 1590 © Compton Verney