Queen Elizabeth I Portrait

Rare Portrait of Aging Queen Elizabeth I Discovered

Featured on Treasure Detectives EPISODE #6 Which Premiered April 9!

Visit the Treasure Detectives website for re-plays or any newly featured content about the portrait.

(Manteo, N.C., February 25, 2013) – Given reviews of the first official portrait of Britain’s Duchess of Cambridge (Kate Middleton) – royal portraits can cause a stir among fans and critics. Amazing then that an assumed Tudor-era portrait of Queen Elizabeth I is still commanding discussion some 400 years later.

Purchased over fifty years ago, this rare depiction of Queen Elizabeth I has recently attracted the interests of historians, art collectors, and an investigative prime-time realty program called “Treasure Detectives,” which premiers March 5 on CNBC.

(Photo courtesy of The Elizabethan Gardens; Ray Matthews, Photographer. Artist unknown–but long attributed to the school of Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger (ca. 1561/62-1636). Elizabeth I (1533-1603), oil on oak panels, ca. 1593. Courtesy of The Elizabethan Gardens, Manteo, NC.) 

“Treasure Detectives” investigates fakes or forgeries, which is exactly what art historians have asked of The Elizabethan Gardens’ unpretentious Queen.

Is this an authentic portrait, dating back to the time of Queen Elizabeth I?

Since unflattering depictions of the Queen were banned during her lifetime, if this work is from the Queen’s era, how did it possibly survive?

The Elizabethan Garden’s portrait shows an aging, graceful Queen – completely content with her wrinkles, instead of the youthful queen a court-approved artist would have painted. Royal censors of the day would have certainly rejected the portrait and dictated the artist repaint or deface the work. Unless, of course, the artist hid it from royal inspection.

Perhaps CNBC’s “Treasure Detectives” can find the answers to some of these lingering questions.

When Ruth Coltrane Cannon, founding member and benefactor of The Gardens purchased the portrait in New York the 1950’s, it’s possible that neither she nor the art dealer knew the origins. Since that time, the portrait has not been seen outside of North Carolina. That is until now.

For the past 50 years, the aging Queen resided in The Elizabethan Gardens Gatehouse where it greeted guests to the popular attraction until three years ago when a team led by Larry Tise, the Wilbur and Orville Wright Distinguished Professor of History at East Carolina University arranged for a closer inspection.

Following heightened speculation about the portrait’s historic nature, it was sub sequentially removed, conserved and relocated to a secure climate-controlled site.

Art appraisers, curators and historians have sought to connect the newly discovered art to the studio of Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger. Gheeraerts was a famous portrait artist of the time, falling out of favor in the early 1600’s.

When comparing the famous Dichley Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I by Gheeraerts that hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London with The Elizabethan Gardens portrait, one finds many similarities. Both feature the same pearl and jeweled necklace, position of the head, elaborate crown and other jewelry.

Could both portraits have been painted simultaneously? Or at different times by the same artist?

Careful analysis of the materials used for the portrait and frame dates it to Elizabethan times, but a more detailed study is needed.

“We are flattered by the attention our portrait has received,” explained Penny Rose, chairman of The Elizabethan Gardens Board of Governors. “And we are equally as intrigued to learn more about our portrait’s place in history.”

The portrait makes a long overdue viewing outside North Carolina as part of the Folger Shakespeare Library’s exhibition “Nobility and Newcomers in Renaissance Ireland” in Washington, D.C., from now until May 19. And CNBC’s upcoming “Treasure Detectives” episode, slated for spring 2013, brings The Gardens’ obscure Queen Elizabeth I into the national spotlight – hoping to find some answers to her origin and age.

“And if some questions remain, then a mystery it will be,” remarked Candis Owens, marketing chair of The Elizabethan Gardens Board of Governors. “Here on Roanoke Island, the land where Sir Walter Raleigh’s famous lost colonists resided and disappeared, we’re used to mysteries.”

For more information, contact:

Carl Curnutte, Office: (252) 473-3234




Take A Tour An audio & visual tour
of The Elizabethan Gardens


Upcoming Events!1

The Elizabethan Gardens is located adjacent to The Lost Colony's Waterside Theatre and Fort Raleigh National Historic Park on Roanoke Island nestled near North Carolina's Outer Banks. The gardens are open year-round, seven days a week except certain holidays.

-OUR SPONSORS- 2020-Sponsors-Bar-TALL-rev-Jan