An Unknown Woman, formerly called Queen Anne of Denmark

Artist or maker:
Anglo-Netherlandish School
previously attributed to Paul van Somer (b.1577-1578, d.1622)
previously attributed to English School
dated stylistically
Place of production:
United Kingdom
oil on panel
Type of object:
Accession number:


The style of this woman's dress and hair indicates the sitter is an English or Scottish lady from around 1610-1615. It was thought to show Anne of Denmark, the queen consort of James VI of Scotland, later James I of England, Scotland and Ireland. However, comparison with known portraits of Anne make this identification unlikely.

The portrait was one of the works Alice de Rothschild purchased to re-furnish the Smoking Room in the Bachelors' Wing. Many items had left the room to go to the British Museum as part of the Waddesdon Bequest, made by her brother Ferdinand in 1898. A label on the back indicates that Alice bought it from the London picture dealer Colnaghi's.

When Alice owned it, the traditional attribution to Paul Van Somer had already been rejected. Van Somer was a Flemish artist who painted many portraits at the court of James I of England. It was unusual for portraits of this size to be painted on panel by this date in England; this suggests a connection with an artist working in the Netherlands, where supports of this kind were more common.

The painting may show Anne of Denmark's daughter Elizabeth, who became Queen of Bohemia in 1613. An inscription on the verso does read 'Elizabeth', however this may refer to Elizabeth I of England. The salmon pink bows make this woman's outfit particularly striking. The two rings that she wears around her wrist may have some significance. The painting may have been made to attract a potential suitor for this grand noblewoman.

Phillippa Plock, 2012

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
953 x 813
Signature & date:
not signed or dated
on verso, painted on back of panel
on verso, canvas, pasted to panel (noted in object file)

- 865 / HS/E/ - / H cx
on verso, upper centre, pasted on parquetting

on verso, upper left, blue edged label


Owned by P. & D. Colnaghi & Co. Ltd; acquired by Alice de Rothschild (b.1847, d.1922) from P. & D. Colnaghi & Co. Ltd in May 1909 for £50 as 'Queen Anne of Denmark by Van Somer'; inherited by her great-nephew James de Rothschild (b.1878, d.1957); inherited by his wife Dorothy de Rothschild (b.1895, d.1988); given to Waddesdon The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust) in 1971.
Waddesdon (National Trust)
Gift of Dorothy de Rothschild, 1971

Indexed terms