It has recently been realised that a number of Elizabethan and Jacobean portraits unmistakably show women as pregnant. The Flemish-born but London-raised Gheeraerts produced various portraits of this type. This example was acquired by Tate in 2001. Although the identity of the sitter is unknown, her sumptuous costume, with numerous pearls, indicates her high status. Pearls also symbolised purity, appropriate in a chaste wife. It is unusual for a sitter at this period to be shown smiling, but there are other examples in Gheeraerts's work.


  • Title: Portrait of an Unknown Lady
  • Creator: Marcus Gheeraerts II
  • Date Created: Around 1595
  • Provenance: Accepted by H.M. Government in lieu of tax and allocated to the Tate Gallery 2001
  • Physical Dimensions: w76 x h927 mm
  • Original Title: Portrait of an Unknown Lady
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil on wood

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