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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Elizabeth I was both king and queen in paintings

'Elizabeth I: Ruler and Legend' is on display in Ellis Library this month.

Oct. 31, 2006

Androgyny in the 1600s was the focus at Ellis Library on Monday during the third installment of the historical exhibit titled "Elizabeth I: Ruler and Legend."

Before a small crowd, Judith Clark, a faculty member of Stephens College, showed "A Queen In Sight: Reading Visual Representations of Elizabeth I." She discussed how one of England's most well known rulers was often painted with both male and female attributes and features.

"Elizabeth I: Ruler and Legend," sponsored by the Newberry Library in Chicago and the American Library Association, is a traveling photo-panel that will be shown in 40 institutions across the United States.

MU was chosen as one of the 40 locations because of the university's ability to enhance the exhibit, according to Michael Holland, the Head of Special Collections.

"MU had the resources to develop programs supporting the traveling exhibit," Holland said. "The additions to the exhibit are the multiple presentations over various topics relating to Elizabeth and the Elizabethan era like 'A Queen In Sight.'"

Clark, who first noticed the androgynous nature of Elizabeth's paintings while she was studying female cross-dressing, said that the Tudor Dynasty developed the androgynous philosophy, which viewed women's bodies as having no authority.

For Elizabeth to achieve respect, the Tudor belief was to paint her having masculine features.

"Elizabeth I was more seen and recognized than any other monarch of the time partly because of coins and engravings ... with her image," Clark said, adding that those items were the most likely to be seen by the public.

Elizabeth I had difficulty controlling her image, which is similar to today's problem faced by numerous well-known figures. But her trouble was caused by unauthorized paintings depicting Elizabeth as less than royalty.

Nonetheless, she continues to occupy a place in history and popular culture more than 400 years after her death.

"If there is one monarch students can identify, it will be King George III or Elizabeth I," he said.

Actress Judi Dench portrayed the famous royal in "Shakespeare in Love" and Cate Blanchett won an Oscar for her rendering in "Elizabeth," both of which were released in 1998.

The current display at the library stems from a major exhibit created by the Newberry Library in 2003 to commemorate the queen's reign on the 400th anniversary of her death.

MU knew of the incoming event since early 2004 when Holland wrote grants to attract the exhibit to campus.

"People have been amazed and pleased by the variety of speakers and covered topics from book binding to Shakespeare," he said.

"Elizabeth I: Ruler and Legend" runs through Nov. 29, and all presentations are free and open to the public.

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