Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas 1834 - 1917
Black chalk, charcoal and stump on laid paper, laid down 405 x 274 mm
Bequeathed by A.S.F. Gow, through the National Art Collections Fund, 1978
Collections record: PD.22-1978
© The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
This beautiful drawing is a copy of a portrait of Elisabeth of Valois (1545-68), daughter of Henri II of France and Queen of Spain, by the Flemish portrait painter Antonis Mor (1517-1575). A number of versions of Mor’s portrait exist; it seems most likely that Degas made this copy from that which belonged to the English collector, John Wilson, who lived for some time after 1873 in Paris.
The original portrait of the young Queen was probably painted in the first months of 1560, and shows her in sumptuous court dress, with an elaborate, jewel-encrusted, head-dress. Significantly, Degas has chosen to avoid these decorative details, and to concentrate instead on the sitter’s features and the intensity of her expression.