A portrait type showing Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester in a slashed leather jerkin and red sleeves and a red trunk hose survives in several versions. The pose and headgear resemble another portrait, done before 1564, in a bluish brocade costume. That portrait, which shows Leicester with his dog by his side, is sometimes believed to belong to this group, and at least the other versions in red seem to be copies of the picture at the centre. All the paintings can be dated to around the mid-1560s and have generally been attributed to the Flemish painter, Steven van der Meulen, who may or may not be identical to Steven van Herwijck.
The jewel Robert Dudley is wearing in his hat depicts the mythical heroic Roman Marcus Curtius on horseback, who literally saved his hometown from the abyss by riding into a chasm that had opened in the Forum. The iconography was particularly fitting for the queen’s Master of the Horse, an office Dudley had performed from the second day of the reign, 18 November 1558.
This head-and-shoulders version from the National Gallery of Victoria still bears a 16th century wax seal on its reverse and, as on his other portraits, Dudley’s wart on his right cheek is clearly hinted at.
Grosvenor, Bendor (2009): “The identity of ‘the famous paynter Steven’: Not Steven van der Meulen but Steven van Herwijck”. British Art Journal. Vol. IX. No. 3.
Hearn, Karen (ed.) (1995): Dynasties: Painting in Tudor and Jacobean England 1530–1630. Rizzoli.