Published: November 22, 2021
BEDFORD VILLAGE, N.Y. — A painting now believed to be a lifetime portrait of Queen Elizabeth I crossed the block at Butterscotch Auction on November 21, selling for $158,661, including buyer’s premium. It sold in the room to a private collector with bidding from several English institutions, dealers and collectors, one bidding from Belgium. The underbidder was online.
The work, which shows a very high level of artistry and execution — suggesting that Elizabeth may have actually sat for the portrait — is thought to be the prototype of a group of known portraits of Elizabeth I, including the Chawton portrait (Hever Castle, Kent, United Kingdom) and the Gardner Soule portrait (private collection).
The work once belonged in the illustrious collections of J. Piermont Morgan and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which owned it for more than 40 years before it was deaccessioned in 1956. It then changed hands a few times before being purchased by the grandparents of the consignor at Berry-Hill Galleries, New York, around 1961.
Over the years a number of experts, gallerists and academics have voiced their opinion as to the identity of the sitter. These include Sir Roy Strong, an early authority on the iconography of Queen Elizabeth I, who in his 1963 foundational study, Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I, noted that “the full frontal image [of the work] is entirely consistent with the early Elizabeth iconography.” Other academics have suggested that the sitter may be Lady Jane Grey or Lady Katherine Grey, but modern consensus, reinforced by Dr John Stephan Edwards, who assisted Butterscotch in cataloging the work and wrote a summary of his opinion on it, is that the sitter is indeed Queen Elizabeth I, painted between 1558 and 1562. If this is the case, it would have been painted during the first four years of her reign, when the queen was in her mid to late twenties.
Originally cataloged as “Anglo-Dutch, Seventeenth Century,” the painting brought many times over its $5/10,000 estimate.
A review of this sale will follow.
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