This portrait of Mary I of England by Hans Eworth is an oil-on-wood portrait with an unknown date of production. However, some say that it was produced between 1555–58. It shows the English monarch donning a black outfit with slightly brown sleeves. She can be seen holding what appears to be a small strip of paper-like material in her right hand.
A staunch Catholic, Mary’s reign lasted only five years (from 1553-1558), and she died in 1558 at the age of 42, most likely from ovarian or uterine cancer. Despite her efforts to restore Catholicism in England, her successor and half-sister, Elizabeth I, would ultimately establish the Anglican Church and solidify England’s break with Rome.
Who was Hans Eworth?
Hans Eworth was a Flemish artist who was active during the reigns of Mary I of England and her successor Elizabeth I. He painted several portraits of the queens, which provide insight into their appearance and personality.
One of Eworth’s most famous portraits of Mary I is known as the “Phoenix Portrait”. This painting shows the queen wearing a gold dress and a cloak decorated with flames, symbolizing the mythical bird that rises from its own ashes. The portrait was likely intended to represent Mary’s triumph over adversity and her restoration of Catholicism to England.
Eworth also painted a portrait of Mary I with her husband, Philip II of Spain, which shows the couple standing side by side and wearing matching outfits. The painting is notable for its elaborate details, including the intricate patterns on Mary’s dress and the jewels adorning her crown.
Another portrait by Eworth depicts Mary I holding a rosary, a symbol of her devout Catholic faith. She is depicted wearing a black dress, which was the traditional color of mourning in Spain, where she spent much of her childhood.