Current & Coming  |  By ANTIQUES Staff

Tudor portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, London

November 13, 2013  |  by Carolin C. Young |Three Unknown Elizabethan Children, artist unknown, c. 1580. Oil on panel. Private collection, on view at the National Portrait Gallery, London.

London’s National Portrait Gallery invites visitors to have a firsthand look at the personalities who inhabited Elizabeth I’s realm. Including portraits of the queen and many of her most re­nowned subjects, such as Bess of Hardwick, William Cecil, the explor­er Francis Drake, and poet John Donne, the exhibition also features im­ages of lesser-known lawyers, butchers, calligraphers, and merchants as it explores how portraiture expanded from the elite into the middle class. The star of the show is a portrait of three unidentified but elegant­ly clad Elizabethan children aged, according to the painting’s inscrip­tions, six, seven, and five, and painted about 1580 by an unknown art­ist who nevertheless betrays familiarity with Netherlandish techniques. What makes the picture a standout is the small guinea pig nestled into the girl’s arm, which sniffs at a small bird (probably a finch) clenched in her little brother’s fist. The picture is currently the earliest known depic­tion of a guinea pig, which became popular as exotic pets in Europe after being introduced by Spanish traders. A catalogue has been published to accompany the exhibition.

 Elizabeth I and Her People • National Portrait Gallery, London • to January 5, 2014 •

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