Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Portrait - Portrait of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots
  • Portrait of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots
    Clouet, François
  • Enlarge image

Portrait of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    England (possibly, made)
    France (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    17th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Clouet, François (after)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    oil on oak panel

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by John Jones

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 57, case WN

François Clouet (1516-1572) He was a pupil of his father, Jean Clouet (ca.1485-1540/41), whom he succeeded as ‘painctre et varlet de chambre’ to Francis I in 1540. François Clouet produced a number of portrait drawings, paintings and miniatures of the members of the Valois court but also produced allegorical landscapes. He ran a large and successful studio whose members included many of the most prominent artists of the next generation: Jean Decourt (1572-1585), Marc Duval (ca.1545-1581), Etienne (ca. 1540-1603) and Pierre Dumonstier (ca. 1545-1625), François Quesnel (1543-1619) and Frans Pourbus (1545-1581).

This portrait of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland, is a copy derived from a miniature preserved in the Royal collection, Windsor. It portrays the young queen at the age of 16 while she was still in the French court where she was brought up. She wears a lavish red dress embroidered with pearls, characteristics of the French fashion of the 1550s. This portrait enhanced her beauty and dignity for which she was renowned since her young age.

Physical description

Bust-length portrait of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland, set against a dark neutral background. She wears a red dress embroidered with pearls surmounted by a white ruff.

Place of Origin

England (possibly, made)
France (possibly, made)


17th century (made)


Clouet, François (after)

Materials and Techniques

oil on oak panel

Marks and inscriptions

'Mary, Queen of Scotland'
Inscribed upper left


Height: 31.7 cm excluding frame, Width: 23.5 cm excluding frame

Object history note

1804, Francis Douce (1757-1834) the antiquary (label on back); Sir Samuel Rush Meyrick; 1861, Col. Meyrick (shown at the Peterborough Archaeological Society in that year); John Jones, bequeathed to the Museum in 1882.

Ref : Parkinson, Ronald, Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860. Victoria & Albert Museum, HMSO, London, 1990. p.xix-xx

John Jones (1800-1882) was first in business as a tailor and army clothier in London 1825, and opened a branch in Dublin 1840. Often visited Ireland, travelled to Europe and particularly France. He retired in 1850, but retained an interest in his firm. Lived quietly at 95 Piccadilly from 1865 to his death in January 1882. After the Marquess of Hertford and his son Sir Richard Wallace, Jones was the principal collector in Britain of French 18th century fine and decorative arts. Jones bequeathed an important collection of French 18th century furniture and porcelain to the V&A, and among the British watercolours and oil paintings he bequeathed to the V&A are subjects which reflect his interest in France.

See also South Kensington Museum Art Handbooks. The Jones Collection. With Portrait and Woodcuts. Published for the Committee of Council on Education by Chapman and Hall, Limited, 11, Henrietta Street. 1884.
Chapter I. Mr. John Jones. pp.1-7.
Chapter II. No.95, Piccadilly. pp.8-44. This gives a room-by-room guide to the contents of John Jones' house at No.95, Piccadilly.
Chapter VI. ..... Pictures,... and other things, p.138, "The pictures which are included in the Jones bequest are, with scarcely a single exception, valuable and good; and many of them excellent works of the artists. Mr. Jones was well pleased if he could collect enough pictures to ornament the walls of his rooms, and which would do no discredit to the extraordinary furniture and other things with which his house was filled."

Historical significance: This painting is most likely a partial copy after a miniature by François Clouet preserved in the Royal collection, Windsor (RCIN 401229). It depicts the Queen Mary Stuart (1542-1587), the daughter of James V of Scotland and Mary of Guise, at the age of 16. In the miniature, Mary places a ring on a finger of her right hand, probably alluding to her marriage with her cousin, François II of France. They married in 1558 and François succeeded his father on the throne the following year. She was reputed for her beauty and her knowledge, comparable to that of her aunt, Marguerite de Navarre (1492-1549), who was a renowned humanist and author. Mary was brought up at the French court and return to Scotland after her husband's death in 1560.
The present painting reproduces the exact same dress as in the miniature. Mary wears a red bodice embroidered with pearls and puffed leaves, which derived from the Spanish and the masculine mode (for the collar), characteristic of the mid 16th-century French fashion.
Two similar portraits of Queen Mary by Clouet are known: a bust-length drawing (Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris-Rés. n.a.22(17), Adhémar 403), in which the sitter is portrayed when slightly younger and another miniature showing a double portrait of Francis II and Mary crowned and dressed in coronation robes, which was inserted later in the Book of Hours made for Francis II's mother, Catherine de' Medici (Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris-N.a.lat.82).
A number of portraits of Queen Mary at different stages of her life have survived, the majority of them were executed by Clouet and his workshop however although the V&A portrait is old, it does not appear to be by Clouet or from his immediate circle. It may have been made in England or Scotland after the accession of Mary's only son, James VI of Scotland who became in 1603 James I of England. The inscription was probably added later and repeats the first three words of a much longer inscription found in a different part of the original drawing.
The special interest of this painting lies in the area of posthumous iconography and late 18th and early 19th-century antiquarianism in Britain as the portrait belonged to the distinguished antiquaries Francis Douce (1757-1834) and Sir Samuel Rush Meyrick, before its acquisition by John Jones who eventually bequeathed it to the Museum. The verso bears a long manuscript statement by Douce, dated 1804, an engraving after the Windsor miniature and a poetry apparently translated from French alluding to Mary's departure from France to Scotland:
"Oh pleasant land of France, farewell;
My country dear
Where many a year
Of infant youth I lov'd to dwell!
Farewell for ever happy days
The ship which parts our loves conveys
But half of one! - one half behind
I leave with thee dear France to prove
A token of our endless love
And bring the other to my mind.

John Dayner's transl. of Mary's French verses."

Historical context note

In his encyclopaedic work, Historia Naturalis, the ancient Roman author Pliny the Elder described the origins of painting in the outlining of a man's projected shadow in profile. In the ancient period, profile portraits were found primarily in imperial coins. With the rediscovery and the increasing interest in the Antique during the early Renaissance, artists and craftsmen looked back to this ancient tradition and created medals with profile portraits on the obverse and personal devise on the reverse in order to commemorate and celebrate the sitter. Over time these profile portraits were also depicted on panels and canvas, and progressively evolved towards three-quarter and eventually frontal portraits.
These portraits differ in many ways from the notion of portraiture commonly held today as they especially aimed to represent an idealised image of the sitter and reflect therefore a different conception of identity. The sitter's likeness was more or less recognisable but his particular status and familiar role were represented in his garments and attributes referring to his character. The 16th century especially developed the ideal of metaphorical and visual attributes through the elaboration of highly complex portrait paintings in many formats including at the end of the century full-length portraiture. Along with other devices specific to the Italian Renaissance such as birth trays (deschi da parto) and wedding chests' decorated panels (cassoni or forzieri), portrait paintings participated to the emphasis on the individual.
Portrait paintings were still fashionable during the following centuries and extended to the rising bourgeoisie and eventually to common people, especially during the social and political transformations of the 19th century. At the end of the 19th century and during the 20th century, painted portraits were challenged and eventually supplanted by the development of new media such as photography.

Descriptive line

Portrait of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, after François Clouet. French School, ca. 17th century.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Kauffmann, C.M., Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, p. 69-70, cat. no. 67
Crépin-Leblond, Thierry, Marie Stuart: le destin français d'une reine d'Écosse, Paris: Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 2008.

Labels and date

British Galleries:
This portrait shows Mary, aged about 17, shortly after her marriage in 1558 to François, heir to the French throne. Though Mary was Queen of Scotland almost from birth, her French mother ensured she grew up at the cultured court of France. [27/03/2003]


Oil paint; Oak


Oil painting


Paintings; Portraits; Royalty; Scotland


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.