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Catholic image found hidden under portrait of top Elizabethan persecutor

January 04, 2013

Curators at London’s National Portrait Gallery have made the stunning discovery that a portrait of Sir Francis Walsingham—who led the persecution of Catholics under Queen Elizabeth I—is painted over an image of the Virgin Mary and Child Jesus.

The image under Walsingham’s portrait, discovered by an X-ray of the painting, suggested the possibility that a Catholic artist had deliberately left a distinctly Catholic image beneath the surface. The National Portrait Gallery found a similarly Catholic image—a Flagellation of Christ—underneath a portrait of Thomas Sackville, Queen Elizabeth’s treasurer.


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