The Plimpton "Sieve" Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, 1579


George Gower
The Plimpton "Sieve" Portrait
of Queen Elizabeth I,
Oil on panel
This magnificent portrait by George Gower, Sergeant Painter to the Queen, belongs to the early group of "Sieve" portraits where Elizabeth wears a red gown. The portraits take their name from the sieve she holds in her left hand, recalling the Roman Vestal virgin who carried water in a sieve, thus proving her virginity. In this painting, the globe on the left with the Italian motto "I see everything and much is lacking," appears to refer to Elizabeth's imperial mission as her explorers sailed out to new lands. On the right is her coat of arms with a quotation beneath from Petrarch, indicating that the Virgin Queen is beyond the woes of lovers.

Elizabeth I, Then and Now
Exhibition Highlights

Introduction | Court Life | Elizabeth's Wardrobe | Foreign Affairs | Leicester and Essex | The Scottish Connection | Elizabeth as Ruler | Elizabeth's Funeral | Afterlife, Then and Now

Exhibition Catalogue | Elizabeth For Young People | Curator's Notes | Elizabeth I Exhibition Home Page


This page updated August 15, 2003