Monday, August 18, 2014

Mysterious snake appears in painting of Queen Elizabeth I

Mysterious Coiled Snake – Painting of Queen Elizabeth I

Mysterious snake appears in painting of Queen Elizabeth I
An image of a mysterious coiled snake has appeared in a late 16th century portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, as per the National Portrait Gallery. It was revealed that over time and degradation she was originally holding a coiled serpent in her hand and not the innocuous nosegays which she is portrayed holding now. In the original version of the painting, the serpent was shown being clasped in the Tudor monarch’s fingers though it was painted over at the last minute and replaced with decorative bunch of roses.

Queen Elizabeth I
The portrait which was painted by an unknown artist, somewhere in the 1580s or early 1590s was not on display at the National Portrait Gallery since 1921 but the shadow of the serpent can be seen clearly between the fingers and the tail which is coiled above her hand. The symbol was considered to be a symbol of wisdom,prudence and reasoned judgment as the physician’s emblem, the rod of Aesculapius and probably it was from this imagery that the unknown artist got the idea and changed his mind, possibly considering the common association of snakes with the devil and original sin and painted it over with a strange shaped inoffensive little bouquet of roses.

Concealed and Revealed 

Queen Elizabeth I
Infra Red Pic.
As per paint analysis, it indicates that the snake was definitely made at the same time like the rest of the painting and there does not seem to be any varnish between the snake and the flower layers and hence it is presumed that it was painted right over. The image though not on display at the London gallery formed part of an exhibition titled `Concealed and Revealed, The Changing Faces of Elizabeth I from March 13 to September 26.

It was suggested that the removal of the snake could have been due to the ambiguity of the emblem and an artist’s impression created what the snake would have looked like with the help of infra-red technology which revealed the changes in the initial design. According to a statement made from the gallery, it states that the snake is mainly black but has greenish blue scales and was almost certainly painted from imagination.

Unfinished Portrait by Different Artist

Mysterious snake appears in painting of Queen Elizabeth I
A portrait of another woman is seen which is behind the image of the monarch whose identify is not known. X-ray photography shows a female head facing the opposite direction and is in a higher position than the queen and the eyes and nose of the first face is visible where the paint has been faded from the queen’s forehead. The gallery is of the belief that the unfinished portrait could have been done by a different artist which showed how 16th century panels were at times recycled by artists.

Queen Elizabeth I
Moreover the portrait of the unknown woman seems to be wearing a French hood, of the 1570 – 1580s fashion indicating that there could have been a few years before the panel could have been reused to create the portrait of Elizabeth I. The most famous portrait of Elizabeth in a group, the Darnley portrait earlier portrayed the Queen with rosy, pink cheeks and the image of the Virgin Queen made up with white face and hands could turn out to be an artifact with paint that had changed than Elizabeth’s beauty standards.

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