The Armada Portrait

Image for The Armada Portrait The Armada Portrait

Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603)

The Armada Portrait, c.1588.  Attributed to George Gower (c.1546-1596).

 

The Armada Portrait, displayed in the Long Gallery, is a must see for visitors to Woburn Abbey. An impressive picture, it is a statement of power and authority with Queen Elizabeth I portrayed as Empress of the world and commander of the seas.

This portrait of Elizabeth I is attributed to George Gower in 1588 and is an oil painting on an oak panel. It is known as 'The Armada Portrait' because it commemorates the great sea battle of 1588 when the English fleet defeated the invading Spanish Armada sent to overthrow Elizabeth. The view of the battle in the two windows behind the Queen conveys messages of Elizabeth's victory. 

Symbolism

This is probably the most iconic portrait of Elizabeth the Virgin Queen (and is one of three versions in existence). Her hand is firmly on the globe and the Imperial crown reflects her equality with the Holy Roman Emperor and her status as Empress of the world, whilst the mermaid hints at her command of the seas. Her dress, in her preferred colours of black and white, also proclaims her rank and is covered with her favourite gems and precious pearls from the sea, a sign of virginity.

The Long Gallery

The Long Gallery is a space that served several purposes. It could be used for displaying collections of art and for exercise by walking up and down the room when the weather discouraged a visit to the gardens. It is still used by the family when entertaining guests. 

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