Mary I of England, 1516-58 and Philip II of Spain, 1527-98

This double portrait is a copy, though with some differences, of the panel painting of 1558 at Woburn Abbey, traditionally ascribed to Lucas de Heere.

Mary is seated full-length on the right, facing to the left in a black overdress with fur on the sleeves and gold brocade embroidered underdress, with the headdress of the 1550s. Her facial characteristics, which do not resemble other portraits of Mary, have been intentionally idealized to flatter the sitter. Philip is standing on the left facing to the right in a black doublet and hat and white hose. He is wearing the Order of the Garter. The couple are portrayed in a room, physically separated by a window with an open casement, through which is a view of St Paul's and the Thames.

Mary became Queen of England and Ireland in 1553. The following year, against the advice of her councillors, she married her first cousin, Philip of Spain, son of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. The inclusion of two chairs of estate indicates the fate of several nations attached to this union. In a dynastic gesture, Mary holds a rose in her right hand as she sits beneath the arms of England. Philip stands in front of his throne. The inscription above the open window, though not entirely legible, celebrates the extent of the sitters' combined domains.

The composition of the double portrait and the presence in the foreground of two lap dogs as attributes of marital fidelity imply that this may be a wedding portrait, although the positioning of the dogs manifests unease. It is conceivable that the Woburn picture was itself derived from an earlier work produced at the time of the sitters' marriage in 1554.

They are richly dressed and the embroidery of Mary's dress is complemented by the tooled leather wall decoration. The bodies are awkwardly placed and the heads portrayed are too large to be supported by them. The composition and the steep pitch of the chequerboard floor underscore the implication of unease in this portrait, which is more a statement of union between nations than of two individuals.

Object Details

ID: BHC2952
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Display - QH
Creator: de Heere, Lucas; de Heere, Lucas
Date made: 16th century
People: King Philip II of Spain; Queen Mary I
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Measurements: Frame: 1271 mm x 990 mm x 64 mm;Overall: 20 kg;Painting: 1061 mm x 774 mm

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