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Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and the World of Elizabethan Art: Painting and Patronage at the Court of Elizabeth I

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester (1532/3-1588), was one of the most colourful, fascinating, and controversial people of his day. Although best known today as Queen Elizabeth I’s favourite, Leicester was also the most important and influential patron of painters at the Elizabethan court. With the help of his nephew and heir, Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586), Leicester amassed a substantial collection of art, including commissioned works by Nicholas Hilliard, Hendrick Goltzius, François Clouet, Paolo Veronese, and Federico Zuccaro. Leicester also fostered the birth of an English vernacular discourse on the visual arts and was an early exponent, in England, of the Italian Renaissance view of the painter as the practitioner of a liberal art and, thus, fit company for the educated and well-born.

This book is the first to tell the story of Leicester’s picture collection and the broader cultural environment in which it was created and experienced. In spite of the fact that Leicester’s pictures and personal papers were widely dispersed after his death, pioneering archival research has enabled Dr Elizabeth Goldring (Associate Fellow, Centre for the Study of the Renaissance, University of Warwick) to bring to life this lost world – and with it, a turning point in the history of British art. Lavishly illustrated, this volume includes little-known images now in private collections, some reproduced in colour for the first time here.

Robert Dudley Dust jacket

Me, me, me … the Elizabethan earl who kept portrait painters busy for 30 years. Guardian article on selfie-king Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester: