Marcus Gheeraerts II (1561/2-1636) was one of the great portrait artists of Elizabethan and Jacobean England. A contemporary of William shakespeare, he painted many of the leading Britons of the time, including Elizabeth I. His 'Ditchley' portrait is one of the grandest and most enigmatic depictions of the Virgin Queen, but he also produced haunting and beautiful portraits of leading statesmen and soldiers, and of their wives and children.
One of Gheeraerts' specialities appears to have been the 'pregnancy portrait'. These paintings of obviously pregnant women may have been celebrations of dynastic continuity, but they may also have been intended to record the features of a beloved wife about to face the sometimes fatal consequences of childbirth.
Produced alongside Tate Britain's 2003 exhibition devoted to Gheeraerts, this film features an interview with curator Karen Hearn, as well as contributions from Tarnya Cooper, National Portrait Gallery, and Lavinia Wellicome. Gheeraerts' life and work is explored together with important general questions about the meanings and contexts of late sixteenth and early seventeenth century painting.