Art Across the Curriculum

Portrait of a Lady of Elizabeth's Court - attributed to William Segar 1590

This painting was made in England over 400 years ago towards the end of the Tudor period. Although the lady bears a striking resemblance to Queen Elizabeth I, it is likely that she is Bess of Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire as the painting is similar to other portraits of her.  However, we do not have any proof of who the sitter actually is. 


Segar was a portrait painter in an age when life-sized portraiture was less in demand than the miniature. Portraits were rarely signed and often produced by a workshop, making it difficult to differentiate between artists or to isolate the work of one particular painter.


Highly decorative and two-dimensional, Portrait of a Lady of Elizabeth's Court is less of a likeness than a statement of the lady's immense wealth and social position with her extravagance of jewellery, sumptuous embroidered gown with 'blackwork' embroidery and elaborate ruff. Her identity is as yet uncertain. 

In her right hand she holds a 'flea fur', probably of marten fur. These were extravagant and costly accessories, valued for their decorative qualities, rather than for their success in apprehending fleas! Our portrait is one of very few depictions of such furs.

Potential curriculum links:

KS2 Art & Design - Portraits; Colour; Developing ideas

KS3 Art & Design - Fine Art - Painting; Artefacts - Times & Context; Museum/gallery visit

KS4 Art & Design - History of Art; Portraits; Times & Contexts

KS3/4 Design & Technology - Textiles - Materials, Patterns; Society and Culture

KS2/4 English - Creating Writing

KS2 History - Museums and Galleries - Art

KS3/4 History - The Tudors/Elizabethan England; Elizabeth I

Take a look at the Case Study page for an example of how to use a painting in an Art Across the Curriculum Project.

Document icon Learning article provided by: Ferens Art Gallery, Hull | 
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