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Ode to Gheeraerts' Portrait of Elizabeth I, 2014

Courtesy of JONATHAN FERRARA GALLERY, New Orleans. 

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Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Queen Elizabeth I ('The Ditchley portrait'), c. 1592. Oil on canvas. Bequeathed by Harold Lee-Dillon, 17th Viscount Dillon, 1932. Primary Collection, NPG 2561.

“The Ditchley Portrait,” as this depiction of Queen Elizabeth I is commonly identified, is believed to have been created for Sir Henry Lee, a long-time supporter of Elizabeth I, upon the reconciliation of the queen with Lee after a brief falling out between the pair. In the portrait are Elizabeth’s well-used references to her chastity and purity; an all white gown and an abundance of pearls. The Elizabethian ruff which frames her face recalls the sun, symbol of warmth, beauty, and goodness. Elizabeth’s gown is adorned with Tudor roses and she wears a rose near her heart. The Tudor rose is a symbol of Tudor power and the right for the family to reign in England. The rose, typically shown with red and white petals, represents the houses of Lancaster and York which were united through the marriage of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York after decades of civil war within the country.


E2 has represented their response to the Portrait of Elizabeth I nearly identically to the original. The only detail excluded is the imperial crown. The Tudors sought to expand England’s kingdom into an empire and to reassert their claim to the throne by linking their bloodline to Brutus of Troy, the mythical founder and first king of Britain. By excluding the imperial crown and presenting a woman of color in Elizabeth’s place, is E2 presenting an England that would not seek to become an empire? And England whose ruler is aware of the suffering which comes from empirical rule and who would not seek such a path for her country?

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