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Lost Queen Elizabeth I portrait found in attic
London, Oct 20 (Agencies):
Published on 20 Oct. 2008 11:51 PM IST
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A lost portrait of a young Elizabeth I that was discovered in the attic of a country house has intrigued historians after X-rays revealed that it was painted over an earlier picture of the monarch. The painting, which had lain unnoticed in the dirty loft for more than a century, depicts the Queen as a pale, pious and austere young woman, and is one of the few pictures to show the 16th century royal in the early years of her reign. Elizabeth, who is dressed in simple black clothes and clutches a Bible, was believed to have been around 26 when the portrait was painted. But X-ray scans of the canvas have uncovered an earlier portrait of the monarch, in which she was drawn without the Bible and with a more ostentatious ruff. "The assumption is that the artist – and we do not know who he is - did an intitial portrait, and either he or the Queen did not like it," said Philip Mould, the London art dealer who owns the work. He has run several tests on the painting to verify its age, after working to restore it from the poor state it was found in the unnamed country house in East Sussex. He says the owners did not understand the significance of the painting, which he has now put up for sale for £350,000. "To them, it was just a picture that had been in the family for several generations," Mr Mould said Historians who have studied the painting say it provides a rare insight into the young Elizabeth's pious mindset, and her keenness to differentiate herself from her Catholic sister Mary I. "What is really significant is how she looks", said David Starkey, who has written books and presented television shows on the monarch. "She is really pale and therefore has this pure image. She is holding a Bible or a prayer book. This is a key; it is her statement of religious intent. It is Elizabeth saying, 'Look, I'm a Protestant'." Lady Antonia Fraser, the biographer, said the monarch's "wry smile" revealed a woman who "may only be 26 years old but in her life has already seen so much and learnt so much". There are several surviving portraits of Elizabeth painted later in her reign, after the defeat of the Spanish Armada, but only one other picture shows her looking so young. That portrait, of Elizabeth in her early teenage years, is kept at Windsor Castle.

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