The Paine Miniature – Is it Elizabeth?

Portrait of an Unknown Lady


In May 2021, I came across an image of a rather intriguing sixteenth century miniature portrait hidden away in an auction catalogue dated to 1979.  On seeing the image, the painting immediately sparked my interest, firstly, because I had not seen the image before and secondly, because my immediate thought was that the draughtsmanship showed some similarities to the work thought to have been produced by court miniaturist Levina Teerlinc.

Thanks to the use of social media, I was very quickly able to track down the current owner of a similar portrait. With the information I had already gathered, it was quickly established that this was indeed the same miniature photographed and sold in 1979. I was then provided with some high-resolution colour images of the miniature and further information about its modern-day provenance.   

This article intends to document and examine the information already known about this miniature portrait.  I will also attempt to establish if there is any possible connection between this miniature and the famous sixteenth century artist Levina Teerlinc.  I will also attempt to establish if there is any possible connection between the sitter depicted and other iconography related to Queen Elizabeth I.     

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Description automatically generated
The Paine Miniature Portrait
Oil on Card
6.5 Centimetres
Unknown Artist
©Private Collection


The portrait is painted with the use of oil on card and is 6.5 centimetres in diameter. Its format is circular, and the sitter is depicted in three-quarter length facing the viewers left.  Placed before a plain grey background, she has light auburn hair that is parted in the middle, brown eyes, and a small mouth.  On her head she wears what appears to be a white coif cap. Her costume is made up of a black loose gown trimmed with white fur and a fur collar.  Fur is also seen at the top of the sleeve heads and down the front of the gown.  Both hands are seen in the image and the sitter has her right hand tucked into the front opening of her gown.  A small ruffle, embellished with blackwork stitching is visible at the sitter’s neck and wrists and a gold ring with a large emerald suspended from a black ribbon around her neck. A gold boarder has also been added to the outer edge of the portrait.


Detail Image Showing Hands & Ring

A Memento Mori or skull is depicted on right-hand side of the miniature with the wording: AHI MORTE TU TOGLI & NUNQUA RENDI TU PRESTI & MAINON PAGHI placed vertically along the side of the sitter.

‘Remember you have to die’, is the rough translation for the Latin word Memento Mori. The symbolic use of the skull, rotten fruit or sometimes a butterfly have been used throughout history to remind viewers that death is inevitable.  These symbols became popular in the first half of the sixteenth century and were used in portraiture, jewellery, and illustrations. Today, the image of a skull reminds the modern viewer of danger or a rather morbid obsession with death.  However, in the sixteenth century the image of a skull was used as a polite reminder to live life to the full and that death unites everyone as it is the one thing human beings are guaranteed in life.

The inscription seen on the miniature is complex, and in all honesty my languages are not excellent. It appears to be Italian, and roughly translated to ‘Alas death you take away & you never lend & you never pay’, which is again another reminder to the viewer that death will come someday.

Detail Image Showing Inscription


The portrait first appears in the auction catalogue as part of the sale of the Edward Grosvenor Paine collection of portrait miniature. Paine was born in Louisiana in 1911 and worked within the fashion industry across the globe.  With keen interest in antiques, he eventually became a dealer in the 1950’s, specialising in porcelain and portrait miniatures. Settling at his family estate of Primrose Plantation, Oxford, Mississippi, Paine travelled the globe and acquired a large collection of portrait miniatures.  Prior to his death in 1994, he began to sell some of his large personal collection and several auctions facilitated by Christie’s Auction House, London were held with the remainder of the collection being sold after his death.

The auction of the Paine miniature took place on October 23rd, 1979 and for the purpose of this sale, the portrait is described in the catalogue as ‘An early Miniature of a Lady, English School, circa 1570.’ Unfortunately, no information regarding the portrait’s provenance prior to 1979 is listed among the details in the catalogue.  As stated above, Paine was known to travel the globe in search of acquiring portraits for his own personal collection and unless documentation surfaces to establish more information about the early provenance then this may never be fully known.  No artist association is listed however, the auction house does refer to its possible place of origin as English School.[1]

The miniature portrait was purchased by an unknown collector from the 1979 sale, and it remained in a private collection in the USA.  It appeared at auction again in 1999, when it was sold by Sotheby’s, New York on December 15th.  Once again, the portrait was simply described as ‘A Miniature of a Lady, English School, circa 1555’ with its provenance listed as the ‘Paine collection’. The portrait was purchased by its current owner and it again remains in a private collection.


I do understand that it is a little bit unethical to jump to conclusions when undergoing portrait research, however I do believe that sharing ideas and taking time to listen to the views of others is very important.  One of the main reasons why I opted to write this article is that one thing stands out to me. When first having sight of the Paine miniature I noted some similarities in draughtsmanship with the small amount of work attributed to the famous sixteenth century artist Levina Teerlinc. 

Born around 1510, Teerlinc was the daughter of the famous Flemish illustrator Simon Benninck.  Probably taught to paint by her father, by 1546, she was married to George Teerlinc, and living and working in England.  Teerlinc was granted a salary of forty pounds a year by Henry VIII, and it is documented that she worked for the English Crown until her death in 1576.[2]

When it comes to identifying her work, Teerlinc is a bit of a puzzle.  Although she is one of the more well documented artists of the sixteenth century in terms of payment, lists of work and entries in household accounts, no miniature portrait containing her signature has survived today.

In July 1983, a small number of miniature portraits were grouped together for the first time and associated with Teerlinc.  These paintings were exhibited as part of the Portrait Miniature Rediscovered Exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum. All portraits were painted between 1546-1576, or during the period between the deaths of previous court miniaturists Hans Holbein and Lucas Hornebolte in the 1540’s and the rise of Nicholas Hillard in the 1570’s.  In 1983, all the images were thought to have been produced by the same artists and as stated above it was suggested at that time that this artist could only have been Levina Teerlinc.[3]

All the miniatures do show some similarities in draughtsmanship; The sitters are commonly depicted with having rather large heads and stick-like arms, and some similarities in the brushwork was also noted, including the use of loose wash work to create the features. 

Some of the similarities in draughtsmanship noted in the work associated with Teerlinc are also visible in the Paine miniature, particularly within the figure depicted.  Again, the figure can be seen with the characteristic large head and stick-like arms and some similarities are also noted within the brushwork used on the face and hands. One major sticking point is that the background and materials used to create the Paine miniature appears to be totally inconsistent with the other works thought to be by Teerlinc. All work currently associated with her are painted with the use of watercolour or gouache on vellum and all have the characteristic plain blue background. As discussed in the description section of this article, the Paine miniature’s background appears to have been made up of a grey pigment and according to auction descriptions the entire miniature is created with the use of oil on card.

George Teerlinc is recorded as receiving the sum of ten pounds from the Privy Council in the October of 1551 for ‘being sent with his wife to the Lady Elizabeth’s Grace to draw out her picture.’  It is generally thought Levina completed the portrait however the payment was made to George as he was her husband.  Much debate has taken place as to the identity of this supposed 1551 miniature however, no confirmed miniature portrait depicting the Princess Elizabeth and associated with Teerlinc has, yet, been located. [4] 

This may just be pure coincidence, but I do see some similarities between the sitter depicted in the Paine miniature and the depiction of Princess Elizabeth in the family portrait at Boughton House.

The Boughton House Family Portrait
oil on panel
© Duke of Buccleuch
Francesco Bartolozzi Engraving
Eighteenth Century

In brief, The Boughton House portrait resurfaced in 2008, when it was rediscovered by historians Tracy Borman and Alison Weir, hanging in the private collection of the Duke of Buccleuch.

The painting itself was exhibited in the Tudor Exhibition of 1890, and appeared in Freeman O’Donoghue’s ‘Descriptive and Classified Catalogue of Portraits of Queen Elizabeth published in 1894.  Francesco Bartolozzi, an eighteenth-century engraver was also known to have produced an engraved version, either based on the Boughton House portrait or a similar copy.  O’Donoghue listed the Boughton House portrait as ‘not Contemporary’ and this was also reinforced during the rediscovery when an estimated date of creation was given as circa 1650-1680.

In 2008, comparisons were immediately made between the image of Princess Elizabeth in the Boughton House portrait and NPG 764, the Syon and Berry-Hill portraits, previously associated with Lady Jane Grey and Elizabeth.  A conclusion was made that since the other sitters depicted in the Boughton Portrait were based on known portrait types then the image of Elizabeth must have been based on one of these portraits, thus confirming the sitter once and for all in NPG 764, the Syon and Berry-Hill Portrait as Elizabeth when Princess.[5]

When compared side-by side to the Boughton House Portrait and the Subsequent Bartolozzi engraving, the Pain Miniature again shows similarities in costume and composition.  The sitter appears to be wearing an almost identical gown with the white fur collar and ruffle, also, similar white fitted sleeves with the distinctive pleating are seen within all three images.  The sitter is also depicted with the right hand placed into the front opening of the gown in all three images.

The hood worn by the sitter in the Paine miniature is depicted differently in both the Boughton Portrait and Bartolozzi engraving, and the ring suspended from the black ribbon is also missing in the later images.   One possible explanation for this is that the depiction of Elizabeth in the Boughton House portrait was in fact based on a modified copy of an original image.  A recently discovered image of a rather interesting sixteenth century drawing located by myself in the Witt Library, London may give us one final clue.

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Description automatically generated
Unknown Lady
(Possibly Elizabeth I)
Follower of Francois Clouet
Black & Red Chalk
© Witt Library, London
A picture containing ground

Description automatically generated
Detail Image Showing Ring & Ribbon

This image above, was stored among a large number of sold images previously associated with the French artist Francios Clouet.  The drawing shows a female sitter, facing the viewers left and again wearing a similar loose gown and ruffle to that seen in the Paine miniature.  In this image the sitter is also depicted as wearing a ring containing a stone suspended from a ribbon around her neck, once again these features are mimicking what is seen in the Paine miniature.

Interestingly, the drawing does contain an inscription in French noting the sitter as La Royne D’Angleterre suggesting that the lady depicted was royal and English. The drawing was sold in 1983 and was described as ‘said to be a portrait of Queen Mary Tudor’.  Since no other image matching this drawing and described as Mary has surfaced it could be possible that the auction house may have recorded this as the wrong sister and that this drawing is in fact a drawing of a portrait of Elizabeth. It may just be possible that this drawing was taken from a pre-existing portrait that was used by artists when creating subsequent copies and as other copies were made some of the finer details were lost.   

In conclusion, the Paine miniature has raised some very interesting questions.  Unfortunately, these questions cannot be easily answered without using some scientific investigations on the miniature itself.  As discussed above, their does appear to be some similarities between the Paine miniature and other works associated with Teerlinc, however these are not totally conclusive.  Also, the fact that Teerlinc’s 1551 miniature of Elizabeth when princess is now lost, and that the Paine miniature has similarities to other works associated with Elizabeth just adds that extra bit of excitement leaving, us, the viewer, more curious for further information.

[1] Christie’s Auction, October 23rd, 1979, The Edward Grosvenor Paine Collection of Portrait Miniatures, Page:19

[2] Strong. Roy, The English Renaissance Miniature, Thames and Hudson, 1983, page 54

[3] Strong. Roy, Artists of the Tudor Court, The Portrait Miniature Rediscovered 1520-1620, Thames and Hudson, 1983, page 52

[4] Strong. Roy, Gloriana The Portrait of Queen Elizabeth, Pimlico 2003, page 52

[5] BBC History Magazine, A New Face for The Virgin Queen, June 2008, Page 46-49

17 thoughts on “The Paine Miniature – Is it Elizabeth?

  1. Oh, this is tremendously exciting! What clever detective work! I completely agree about Levina Teerlinc as the artist. Do you think the lady’s costume dates to 1551?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I was thinking specifically of the collar. I do not necessarily disagree, I would just love to hear some more about your thoughts on the matter.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The collar is a difficult one. It is not the distinctive figure-of-eight ruff seen in images in the late 1550’s which was created with the use of starch but a ruffle. This was probably still attached to the chemise. The use of the ruffle started in the late 1540’s as a small frill and eventually got bigger in size as time went on. There is a portrait of an an unknown lady in the collection of the Fitzwilliam Museum dating to 1555 with a similar ruffle. The Paine Miniature may not be the specific miniature portrait recorded in the 1551 accounts, but is similarities to other images of Elizabeth and the stylistic approach of Teerlinc does bring about some rather interesting questions. It’s a rather exciting miniature portrait. 😀


      3. By the way, you are absolutely right about the collar. I really should have written something in the article about it. SInce I constantly bang on about ruffs and ruffles in my previous articles about Lady Jane Grey I did not want to run the risk of repeating myself.


  2. I agree. It is a *very* exciting miniature portrait! 😊

    Is the portrait in the Fitzwilliam Museum you’re thinking of *The* Fitzwilliam Portrait, or is it another one?

    I do have two examples of similar collars. Portrait of a Lady, c.1555, British School, The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology:

    The other one a roundel portrait of a young lady, dated by Philip Mould to the late 1540’s/ early 1550’s:|–Anglo-Flemish-School

    This portrait:

    is said to be from c.1570, but I think it is closer to 1555 based on the collar. Or even earlier, after reading the above. Do you have any opinions?

    I would not worry about repeating yourself. I think it is super interesting! 😊 I think you build a good case for her being Elizabeth, and the lady in the miniature is definitely the same lady as the one in the La Royne D’Angleterre drawing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Indeed it is The Fitzwilliam Portrait, briefly thought to be Jane Grey and I think Queen Mary I at one point. 😀

    The painting identified as John Brydges which sold at Christie’s is probably from the 1560’s the ruffle seen in the Fitzwilliam portrait developed into the figure-of-eight ruff seen in the Christie’s portrait when starch was introduced to England in the 1560’s, ruffs became a lot bigger during this period.
    The first painting you attached from the Ashmolean Museum looks very similar to other works by the artist know only as Master of the Countess of Warwick. This artist wax active in England between 1567 and 1569. Hope this helps and thanks for the supportive feedback. 😀


    1. You’re welcome! 😊

      Thank you so much, that is so helpful!

      To briefly return to the subject of Elizabeth, if you compare the Paine Miniature and the Scrots Portrait of Elizabeth here:

      you will see that the two ladies are actually very similar. At first I thought that the nose and shape of the head were different than how we are used to from Elizabeth’s portraits, but if you zoom in on this scan of the portrait you can actually see that the nostrils and wings of the nose of Princess Elizabeth in the Scrots Portrait match those of the lady in the Paine Miniature.

      Similarly, the head shape in the Scrots Portrait is more square than the triangular head shape of her later portraits. Interestingly, the Coronation Minature:

      A miniature of the Coronation Portrait of Elizabeth I

      also has this square head shape. As does, as you say, of course a lot of other examples from early on in Elizabeth’s reign.

      So all the portraits close to this in time actually portray the same head shape. The nose is the same as in the Scrots Portrait. And hair colour and eye colour of course matches.

      So, I think you have actually convinced me. I, too, think this is Elizabeth 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is really interesting, thank you for sharing it. The coronation miniature is very interesting and as you say t doesn’t have that elongated thin shape we see when we think of Elizabeth. From memory I think this portrait had also been associated with Teerlinc in the past.


    1. When I compared the miniature with Scrots painting the likeness was actually shocking. The same with the La Royne D’Angleterre drawing. Try looking at it side by side with the Scrots painting. Even the mouth.

      Yes. I think today the Coronation Miniature is thought to be by Nicholas Hilliard, and painted around 1600 after an earlier original from 1559, now lost. And, well, the court painter in 1559 was Levina Teerlinc …

      Precisely. None of these early ones have what you so accurately describe as “that elongated thin shape we see when we think of Elizabeth.” It would then make sense for a miniature painted in this period of her not to have it, either.


      1. Hi Juliet,

        Thanks for these. As you probably know images associated with Fans Huys all date to the late 1560’s and have been used to suggest that the sitter is Elizabeth, in NPG 764. For some unknown reason the NPG have not accepted the possibility of this portrait representing Elizabeth and still document it as an ‘Unknown Lady’.

        The problem is that NPG 764 is actually in really bad condition, it has been rubbed and heavily over-painted over the years with little evidence left under the painted surface. Attempts have been made by the gallery to establish a date of creation however this was unsuccessful. Almost nothing is known about its provenance prior to the 19th century and it was actually acquired by the Gallery as a portrait of Mary I, then identified as Lady Jane Grey.

        The French drawing used in my article really is beautiful, and I do remember being stuck by it up on first seeing it. My initial thought was that it could possibly be the ‘missing Recueil d ‘Arras’ drawing discussed briefly by Strong in the first addition of his portraits of Queen Elizabeth. On doing a bit of digging into this, I discovered that the missing drawing was in fact a portrait of Elizabeth of York and not Elizabeth I as Strong states.

        The d’Arras drawings thought to be Elizabeth are most certainly of her and are actually inscribed ‘ Isabel Royne d’Angleterre, fille de Henry VIII et d’Anne de Boulen… C’est la Fameuse Elizabeth’, roughly translated to Isabel, Kingdom of England, Daughter of Henry VIII and Anne de Boulen… This is the Famous Elizabeth. Recent research into the drawings suggest that they are produced on paper dating to the 1560’s and some of the identifications of the sitters and titles noted within the document suggest that it was put together between 1566 and 1569.

        I am still inclined to believe that the Paine Miniature was painted just before or at least within the first few years of Elizabeth becoming queen and am currently looking into further images to try and establish this.


        Liked by 1 person

  5. The Boughton family portrait appears to show Elizabeth as a young queen, rather than as a princess (as compared to the Flemish napkin and the Frans Huys engraving; 2 images of her as Queen).
    Edward and Mary were likewise derived from pictures of when they sat on the throne.


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