This display looks in detail at fourteen portraits of people whose identities are uncertain. Dating from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, these portraits were once thought to depict famous sitters including Queen Elizabeth I, the young pretender to the throne Lady Arabella Stuart, and the poet and courtier Sir Thomas Overbury. These identities, however, have long since been disputed. New research, undertaken in part by MA students from the University of Bristol, is presented alongside the portraits. The likelihood of previously given identities is assessed and, in some cases, new identities are suggested.
Inspired by these mystery portraits, internationally renowned authors John Banville, Tracy Chevalier, Julian Fellowes, Alexander McCall Smith, Terry Pratchett, Sarah Singleton, Joanna Trollope and Minette Walters have imagined what the lives of these sitters might have been like. Their fictional biographies and character sketches accompany the exhibition and can also be purchased together in a fully illustrated paperback available from the Gallery bookshop and online shop.
Read extracts from the Imagined Lives publication