Imagined Lives: Portraits of Unknown People

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Imagined Lives: Portraits of Unknown People
© National Portrait Gallery, London
False Mary by Alexander McCall Smith, Unknown woman, formerly known as Mary, Queen of Scots (154287) Unknown artist c.1570
This display, originally conceived for and shown at Montacute House in Somerset, looks at portraits of people whose identities are uncertain. Dating from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the portraits were once thought to depict famous sitters including Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots and the poet and courtier Sir Thomas Overbury. Their identities now lost, disproved or disputed, the portraits have inspired the authors John Banville, Tracy Chevalier, Julian Fellowes, Alexander McCall Smith, Terry Pratchett, Sarah Singleton, Joanna Trollope and Minette Walters to imagine what the lives of the sitters may have been like. Their fictional biographies and character sketches accompany the exhibition, along with the results of recent research undertaken by History of Art students at the University of Bristol.

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