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Design - Elizabeth I

Elizabeth I

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1585 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Hilliard, Nicholas (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Pen and ink drawing on vellum

  • Credit Line:

    Presented by Art Fund

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Object Type
This portrait of Elizabeth I by Nicholas Hilliard is almost certainly one of the pattern drawings that he made for her Great Seal in 1584. Hilliard completed several drawings for the commission and the Queen chose the one that she liked best for the final design. This was not the chosen version.

Design & Designing
Hilliard was an established goldsmith as well as a painter of miniatures. Indeed, between the ages of 15 and 22 he had been apprenticed to the Queen's own Goldsmith, Robert Brandon. This explains why some fifteen years later the design of the silver seal fell to him. Hilliard later complained that the commission caused resentment amongst employees of the Royal Mint who considered the project their own: 'I had once envy enough ..for my doing well in other men's offices.'

Subjects Depicted
Several factors show that this is a portrait of Elizabeth I and a design for her second Great Seal. Because Hilliard rarely produced pen drawings, the very existence of this work suggests a special story; one which in turn fits the evidence that the Queen insisted on seeing several preliminary 'patterns on parchment' before choosing the final design. The costume, jewels and facial features also correspond to other portraits of Elizabeth.

Physical description

Drawing, in outline, depicting Elizabeth I, full length. The borders of the sheet have been chamferred.

Place of Origin

London (made)


ca. 1585 (made)


Hilliard, Nicholas (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Pen and ink drawing on vellum


Height: 14.2 cm, Width: 12 cm

Descriptive line

Design for the Great Seal depicting Elizabeth I, pen and ink drawing, by Nicholas Hilliard, ca. 1585.

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

Owens, Susan, The Art of Drawing British Masters and Methods since 1600, V&A Publishing, London, 2013, p. 15, fig. 1
Strong, Roy. Artists of the Tudor Court: the Portrait Miniature Rediscovered 1520-1620. London: The Victoria and Albert Museum, 1983.
Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Engraving, Illustration and Design and Department of Paintings, Accessions 1943, London: HMSO, 1956.

Labels and date

British Galleries:

Queen Elizabeth commissioned a new Great Seal in 1584. This drawing by Nicholas Hilliard may be one of the designs for her new seal. The silver seal itself was made at the royal mint. The Queen used to authorise important documents with a stamped wax impression like the one displayed here. [27/03/2003]


Ink; Vellum



Subjects depicted

Queen; Ruff


Drawings; Portraits; Designs; Royalty


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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