GEORGE GOWER (C. 1540-96), THE PLIMPTON "SIEVE" PORTRAIT OF QUEEN ELIZABETH I, 1579

Oil on panel, 41 x 30 in. (104.1 x 76.2 cm), Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC, Reproduced by permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library

Elizabeth I was on the throne in 1602, when the Bodleian was founded, though she died shortly after, in 1603. This magnificent portrait depicts her at the height of her power. The inscriptions allude to her expansionist policies (upper left) and her victory over the woes of love (upper right). This idea is reinforced by the sieve in her hand, a reference to the story of Tuccia, a Vestal priestess in ancient Rome who had proven her chastity by miraculously carrying water in a sieve.




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