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British School 16th century – A Young Lady Aged 21, Possibly Helena Snakenborg, Later Marchioness of Northampton


The Elizabethan portrait of the young lady, possibly Helena Snakenborg, is of an unidentified artist, of the British School of the sixteenth century. The characteristics of the painting share the some similarities with the portrait of Anne Russell, Countess of Warwick, and the mystified painter is called “The Master of the Countess of Warwick.”

The present portrait is said to be possibly of Elizabeth’s maid of Honor, Helena Snakenborg, who remained at the English court and became an eminent figure and emancipated the warming of the relations between Sweden and England her origin country. She married to William Parr, the Marquess of Northampton, who soon died of old age and then enjoyed the title of Marchioness, and was known as the “Good Lady Marquess.” She later married to Thomas George, a unification that angered the Queen, but soon came to terms with it, and supported her maid to the end of her life.

The painting shares limitless symbolic information of the era, prevailing in its beauty and detail. It is a portrait of oils on a wooden canvas, and shares valuable information about the illustrated lady. For instance she is of twenty one years of age, as inscribed, and the date of the painting is 1569.

Apart from the obvious information, we discretely recognize symbols of betrothal, possibly her marriage to the Marquess of Northampton, denoted by the white carnation over her ear. Secondly the sprig of oak leaves symbolizing constancy and loyalty or firmness of mind. Another symbolism is the red roses embroidered to her sleeves and outfit, also noted as pinned to her cap as jewels in the shape of white roses, acquainting royalty to the queen as they stand as symbols of the Royal House of Elizabeth.

Also the same symbolism bare the jewels she is wearing in front of her vest. All this information is sharing vital information of the Queen’s formalities and markings.

The portrait stands as a caption of the Elizabethan era, apart from the symbolism assigned. It stands in a stiff and motionless posture directly staring to the eye of the observer as, most portraits of the time. It shares in its immobility and inflexibility the serious stance of the royal people of the court, concentrating on the facial characteristics and dressing habits. We notice the minute attention given to the jewelry and the detailed devotion in to illustrating the spectacular colorful outfit of the young woman.

The vivid reds and whites contrasted to the neutral black background stun the viewer, with the precision of the embroidery, and the Elizabethan style of clothing. The characteristic padded and stuffed short collar and raised sleeves at the shoulders are distinctive of the époque, and identify this painting as an English school era painting. The face of the bride is pale and vividly stands out in profound certainty but yet sharing a slight awkwardness, a slight uneasiness and questioning of providence and order.

The physiognomy of the figurine imparts a trivial recognition of the opulent descent and a melancholic reconciliation with fate and discipline. Her ringed hands stand crossed in the horizontal axis of the head circulating the synthesis and again postulating the contented and prosperous upbringing of the figure and the glorifying days of the Royal ways.

It is the painting of the sixteenth century in portraiture that shared much symbolism of Royal affirmation, such as the Flemish paintings, and depicted mainly figures of royal ancestry and upper class origin, who could afford the cost of painting, serving as commemorative snapshots, as photography is used nowadays. It is a source of a picturesque representation of the era, counting for the figures of the noble Duchesses and Queens, bringing an Elizabethan air to our quest.

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British School 16th century – A Young Lady Aged 21, Possibly Helena Snakenborg, Later Marchioness of Northampton


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