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Candid Portrait of Elizabeth I Lights Up London Art Week

posted on 30/06/17

A rarely-seen portrait of Elizabeth I, early in her reign, is currently on public view in London for the first time since the 1960s. It’s one of highlights of London Art Week, which begins in the capital today, and runs until July 7.

The image, painted in the 1560s by an unknown artist, shows the queen before she became the remote goddess of later portraits. Here, she’s altogether more human - tight-lipped, pensive and determined: burdened by her power as much as revelling in it. Thought to be a fragment of a larger panel, it’s an extraordinarily candid work, and hangs with other Tudor and Jacobean court portraits at The Weiss Gallery on Jermyn Street. The exhibition is one of 42 that make up this compelling mini-festival.

Primarily, London Art Week is aimed at collectors and museums, and most of the works are on sale, with prices ranging from £1,000 to £5 million. But accessibility is a key feature of the event, and the doors are open to all. Entry is free: details of the exhibitions can be found at londonartweek.co.uk.

As a result, it’s a chance to catch up with art usually hidden from public view. The Elizabeth portrait has, for example, been in America and Germany for many years. Already sold, it will shortly disappear once more into a private collection. You have until July 14 to see it.

Other highlights include a visceral show of religious art from Medieval and Renaissance Spain, at Sam Fogg on Clifford Street. Standout works include a magnificent panel of the martyrdom of Saint Vincent, by Tomás Giner, painted around 1460 in Zaragoza, and a poignant Lamentation by an unknown master, circa 1490.

Meanwhile, Tomasso Brothers Fine Art on Jermyn Street has a beautifully-lit show devoted to the Italian neo-classical sculputor, Antonio Canova and his followers. Nearby, Stephen Ongpin is showing drawings by both Giambattista and Domenico Tiepolo in Mason’s Yard. Ten of them are by Giambattista, Tiepolo Snr; and, in a few simple pen strokes, capture the boldness and clarity of his vision. No wonder he’s regarded as the brightest star of 18th century Venetian art.

London Art Week isn’t the city’s only important art-market event right now. Masterpiece London is its natural companion, and brings together 150 galleries and specialists in a giant tent at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea (until July 5: £28). Among the works on show are Rossetti’s Proserpine (on offer for a cool £4.5 million) and a lovely Hockney lithograph, Celia in Armchair, which sold at the preview for £40,000. If you’ve got any free time over the next few days, it’s well worth visiting both.

By Sean Newsom