Collection online


  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Cameo; onyx; bust of Elizabeth I to left, wearing dress with puffed sleeves and ruff; hair elaborately dressed, with crown at back; over her dress are chains and jewels; in gold collet frame.

  • Date

    • 16thC
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Length: 24 millimetres
    • Width: 20 millimetres
    • Depth: 10 millimetres
  • Curator's comments

    Text from Dalton 1915, Catalogue of Engraved Gems:
    This gem may be classed among the finer cameo portraits of Queen Elizabeth, which are dispersed in various collections, the best being those in the Royal Collection at Windsor castle (Archaeologicia, xiv, p. 20 and pl; The Connoisseur, v. 1903, p. 241; F.M. O' Donoghue, A Descrptive and Classified catalogue of Portraits of Queen Elizabeth, 1894, p. 100), and at Vienna (Kenner, Jahrrb. der kunsthist. Sammlungen des allerhöchsten Kaiserhauses, iv, pl. iii, fig. 7). The Cabinet des Médailles in Paris has three fine examples (E. Babelon, Cat. des Camées, nos. 967-9, pl. lxxi; and the Hermitage at St Petersburg five or six, that from the Orleans Collection (De la Chau and Le Blond, Descr. des principales pierres gravées du cabinet de M. le Duc d'Orléans, 1784, ii, p. 193) being an admirable work, and more than one of the rest meritorious (nos. 5751, 5797).
    A cameo with the three quarter figure in the Victoria and Albert Museum at South Kensington is of remarkable quality (1603-55; Davenport, Cameos, p. 16); the same museum has other cameo portraits of the queen in the Barber and Wild jewels (H. Clifford Smith, Jewellery, p. 254, and pl. xxxiv, xxxv) For other cameo portraits of Elizabeth at the Hague and in the Devonshire Collection, see Fortnum in Archaeologia, as above, p. 21. For a general list, see O'Donogue, as above, p. 100-103.
    Several of the best among these portraits of Elizabeth appear to be by the same hand. Julien de Fontenay is often mentioned as their probable author, as he is said to have visited England on behalf of Henri IV for the purpose of taking the queen's likeness (Babelon, Cat. des Camées, p. xcv). But, as Kenner observed, if this was so, the artist must have consistently idealized his subject, for Elizabeth was fifty-six when Henri came to the throne, and these portraits do not suggest a woman of more than forty. Possibly Atsyll, the gem-engraver to Henry VIII, continued to work during Elizabeth's reign; but no evidence exists with regard to this artist's style (cf. Introduction, pp. xxxiii, xiv).


  • Bibliography

    • Dalton 1915 378a bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Exhibition history

    2013-2014 Oct-Jan, London, National Portrait Gallery, Elizabeth I and her People

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number



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