Elizabeth Hardwick (‘Bess of Hardwick’), Countess of Shrewsbury (1520-1608)
follower of Hans Eworth (Antwerp c.1525 – ?London after 1578)
This portrait is inscribed ‘Maria Regina’, but is very probably of Bess of Hardwick. It is the only portrait to show her in her prime and beauty, when she would have been married to Sir William Cavendish. She was a resolute and ambitious woman, a collector and a builder on an almost unprecedented scale, and possessed wealth affording her every indulgence. Her supreme monument is the house that she built at Hardwick, perhaps the least altered and most atmospheric of all Elizabethan ‘prodigy houses’.
Oil painting on panel, Elizabeth Hardwick (‘Bess of Hardwick’), Countess of Shrewsbury (1520-1608), follower of Hans Eworth (Antwerp c.1525 – ?London after 1578). Inscribed above shoulder, centre left (a later false addition): MARIA REGINA. A three-quarter-length portrait of Bess, previously called Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox and even identified as Mary I, turned slightly to the right, wearing a black dress lined with white fur split with aglets, and with white fur collar, embroidered red and white sleeves and red hat decorated with pearls, her hands clasped in front with gloves; ginger hair.
In inventory of the contents of Hardwick Hall made in 1601 and attached to the will of Elizabeth Hardwick,Countess of Shrewsbury (c.1520-1608); in Edward Swift, 1811, Picture Gallery as '3/4 of Queen Mary; and thence by descent until, following the death of Edward William Spencer Cavendish, 10th Duke of Devonshire (1895 - 1950), Hardwick Hall and its contents were accepted by HM Treasury in part payment of death duties and transferred to the National Trust, in 1959
Hardwick Hall, The Devonshire Collection (acquired through the National Land Fund and transferred to The National Trust in 1959)
Marks and inscriptions
above shoulder at left MARIA REGINA
Makers and roles
follower of Hans Eworth (Antwerp c.1525 – ?London after 1578), artist
Elizabeth 1 and Her People, National Portrait Gallery, London , 2013 - 2014, no.28
Strong 1969 Roy Strong, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, London 1969 [2 vols], pp. 287-8 Ashleford 1996 Jane Ashleford, The Art of Dress: Clothes and Society 1500-1914, London, 1996, pp. 24-5 Durant 1999 David Norton Durant, Bess of Hardwick. London, Peter Owen, 1999 Levey and Thornton, 2001: Santina Levey and Peter Thornton (eds.), Of Household Stuff: The 1601 Inventories of Bess of Hardwick, London 2001, pp. 52-3 Elizabeth I and Her People, National Portrait Gallery, London, 10 October 2013 - 5th January 2014 , 28