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Portrait of Captain Thomas Lee

Photo credit: Tate

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Thomas was related to Sir Henry Lee, Elizabeth I's Champion and creator of imagery for her annual Accession Day celebrations. Henry may have helped devise the complex symbolism of this portrait. Thomas served in the English colonial forces in Ireland. His bare legs are a fantasy evocation both of the dress of an Irish soldier, and that of a Roman hero. Thomas was suspected of treachery to Elizabeth and visited London in 1594 partly to refute this. The Latin inscription in the tree refers to the Roman Mucius Scaevola, who stayed true to Rome even when among its enemies. Lee implies that he too is faithful.


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More information




Oil on canvas


H 230.5 x W 150.8 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Purchased with the assistance of the Friends of the Tate Gallery, the Art Fund and The Pilgrim Trust 1980

Work type


Inscription description

date inscribed