Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester (1532 - 1588)

Artist or maker:
Anglo-Netherlandish School
previously attributed to Lucas de Heere (Belgian or Flemish, b.1534, d.1584)
previously attributed to Steven van der Meulen (b.1543-1568, d.Unknown)
c 1564
dated stylistically
Place of production:
England, United Kingdom
oil on panel
Type of object:
Accession number:


Robert Dudley, First Earl of Leicester, was an intimate of Queen Elizabeth I and was believed to be her lover. The painting used to have an inscription on the left-hand side identifying Dudley, possibly in a later eighteenth-century hand. The left hand coat of arms is executed a little more crudely than the rest of the painting, and was probably added a few years after the rest of the painting was completed.

The attribution of the painting has changed over the years. It was believed to be by the Flemish artist Lucas de Heere and then by the Dutch painter Steven van der Meulen who made many portraits of the English court. However, the handling of the features is different from other known works by van der Meulen, and it is now attributed to an unidentified artist of the Anglo-Netherlandish School. The pose and detail of the purse are found in Netherlandish portraiture.

Dudley is shown with his dog, Boye, a sign of fidelity. He pulls a piece of material, probably a handkerchief, from his purse. Because of its prominence, this may allude to an important token of affection given to Dudley by the Queen. Such items were of great significance. In 1565, Dudley and his rival the Duke of Norfolk were playing tennis when Dudley snatched a handkerchief from the Queen to wipe his face, an action which brought the two men to blows. The arms with the Order of St Michael, which Dudley received in 1566, were probably added after the portrait was completed.

The painting has a strong resemblance to a panel of the head and shoulders of the same sitter in the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia. This may have been copied from the Waddeson painting to give to an ally of Dudley. The inscription on the Waddesdon painting originally read: 'Robert Dudley earl of Leicester / General of Queen Elizabeths Army / ... assistance of the Dutch / against Spain / General in the Netherlands'. It was removed in conservation work in 1995.

Phillippa Plock, 2012

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
1070 x 800 (sight size)
Signature & date:
not signed or dated
upper right

centre, around medallion of Order of the Garter
Translation of inscription:
Shame to him who evil thinks


Acquired by Lord Nathaniel Mayer Rothschild (b.1840, d.1915); then to a Rothschild Family Trust.
Exhibition history:
'Dynasties: Painting in Tudor and Jacobean England 1530-1630', Tate Gallery, London, 12 October 1995 - 7 January 1996

'Elizabeth I', National Maritime Museum, London, February - 14 September 2003, curated by David Starkey

'The Golden Age of the English Court: from Henry VIII to Charles I' Kremlin Armoury Museum, Moscow October 2012 - January 2013

'Tudors, Stuarts and The Russian Tsars' V&A The Victoria & Albert Museum, London (9 March - 14 July 2013)

'The Real Tudors' Musee de Luxembourg, Paris 16 March - 19 July 2015

'Power & Portraiture: painting at the court of Elizabeth I', Waddesdon Manor 7 June – 29 October 2017
Waddesdon (Rothschild Family)
On loan since 1996



Roy Strong; The English Icon: Elizabethan & Jacobean portraiture; London; The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art; 1969; no. 87, ill.; as attributed to van der Meulen, c. 1565.
Roy Strong; Tudor & Jacobean portraits; 2 vols; London; National Portrait Gallery, NPG; 1969; vol. 1 p. 195; vol. 2 pl. 379; as possibly by van der Meulen.
Jacob Voorthuis; Portraits of Leicester; The Dutch in Crisis 1583-88: People and Politics in Leicester's Time, Leiden, Werkgroep Engels-Nederlandse Betrekkingen, Sir Thomas Browne Institute, 1988; 58-59; pp. 58-59.
Maurice Howard; The Tudor Image; London; The Tate Gallery Publications; 1995; p. 37, ill.; as by Anglo-Netherlandish School.
Elizabeth Hearn; Dynasties: Painting in Tudor and Jacobean England 1530-1630; Tate Gallery, London, 12 October 1995 - 7 January 1996; London; The Tate Gallery Publications; 1995; pp. 96-97, no. 49, ill; as by Anglo-Netherlandish School, c. 1564.
Susan Doran; Elizabeth; London, National Maritime Museum, exh. cat., Elizabeth, 1 May - 14 September, 2003; London; Chatto and Windus; 2003; pp. 83-84, cat. no. 60, ill; as by Anglo-Netherlandish School.
Anne Thackray; Elizabeth I as Empress: A Portrait Engraving in the National Gallery of Canada; David Franklin, National Gallery of Canada Review, Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada, 2003; 6-36; p. 22, fig. 10; as by Unknown artist.
Charles Beauclerk; Shakespeare's Lost Kingdom: The true history of Shakespeare and Elizabeth; New York; Grove Atlantic; 2010; p. 238, pl. 6; [unnumbered plates].
Renée Karen Burnam; Stained Glass before 1700 in the Collection of the Philedelphia Museum of Art; Washington, D.C.; Harvey Miller Publications; 2012; p. 264, fig. 67/2.
Tessa Murdoch, Olga Dmitrieva; Treasures of the Royal Courts: Tudors, Stuarts and The Russian Tsars; The Victoria & Albert Museum, London (9 March - 14 July 2013); London; V & A Publishing; 2013; p. 112, pl. 131.
Elizabeth Goldring; Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and the World of Elizabethan Art: Painting and Patronage at the Court of Elizabeth I; New Haven; Yale University Press; 2014; p. 52, fig. 44.
Susan Simpson; Sir Henry Lee (1533-1611): An Elizabethan Courtier; London; Ashgate Publishing; 2014; p. 116, pl. 18.
Monika Groening; Wer war das geheiminisvolle Fraulein von Torck? Mannheimer Geschichtsblätter Band 32; p. 13, ill.

Indexed terms