ELIZABETHAN NAVIGATOR DELL'ARCANO DEL MARE
Oil on Canvas, 27 x 28 ins. contemporary style gilt frame,
Sir Robert Dudley was the son of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, favourite, and lover of Queen Elizabeth I. Leicester had married in secret Lady Douglas Sheffield, by whom he had this son Robert. Leicester later disowned the union and declared Robert Dudley "a base son" or illegitimate. Robert Dudley later became a seaman, with a great understanding of navigation and an ambition to circumnavigate the world. In 1594 he led an expedition to the Orinoco in Guiana, and was knighted after commanding the vanguard at the siege of Cadiz in 1596, which saw the city captured and the Spanish fleet destroyed. His father died in 1588 having fallen out of favour with Elizabeth, but left his "illegitimate" son a fortune and Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire. From 1603 to 1605 he tried to establish his legitimacy at the court of James I, but with lack of evidence and the machination of the corrupt Star Chamber, he lost heart, left his wife and family and left for Florence and the service of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany, with his mistress, Elizabeth Southwell.
It was there he published his famous work "Dell' Arcano del Mare", the maritime atlas to encompass the whole world. He styled himself in Italy "Earl of Warwick and Leicester" and "Duke of Northumberland" a title recognized by Emperor Ferdinand I, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and for whom he built Warships, and rebuilt the port of Livorno He refused to return to England to defend these assumptions. There are two portraits known of Robert Dudley, one by Nicholas Hilliard which is now in Sweden, the other at Longleat, which has recently been restored, of Ambrose Dudley and his nephew Robert as a page. The Hilliard portrait show him lightly moustached and bearded, favouring the right side of his face, as ours does. The National Portrait Gallery has another English Portrait which they describe as a "probable likeness".
Despite the youthfulness of the Longleat portrait, the older hirsute Hilliard and the National Portrait Gallery's likely portrait, all have a similar resemblence to our's. The others are bareheaded but our's wears a cap favoured by his father in his well known portraits. Our picture has been examined by the Hamilton Kerr Institute in Cambridge, which confirms that from the pigment analysis, it is late 16th. early 17th century. Having ex-rayed it there is another unfinished potrait underneath. They report that it has been restored twice before. The frame was ordered after the late owner bought it at Christies 25 years ago. He also bought a portrait of Mercator as his interest in Cartography. His widow, who wishes to remain anonymous, and who was contacted by Christies confirms these details.
Stock ref: 12768