The National Portrait Gallery has got it right with this one, and it's one of the most exciting exhibitions you could wish to see. There in front of you are intimate portraits, not only of Elizabeth I, but of those who were closely connected with her - even her butcher, the appropriately-named Gamaliel Pye, who was occasionally in trouble for dodgy dealing. The pictures are so finely detailed that you can smell the sitter's breath, and there in front of you, carefully displayed, are the everyday things that they handled: the clothes, the personalised rings, their books, even their hats ...
Catalogues don't always serve their shows as well as they should, but this one is a gem of superb reproduction and intelligent, readable, text. If you knew little or nothing about the Elizabethans prior to a visit to the National Portrait Gallery, then rest assured, a walk through the exhibition and a good read of the catalogue will stand you in very good stead, and leave you wanting more.
We are fortunate these days to have so much scholarship at our fingertips - and perhaps even more fortunate in the accessible way that the scholarship is presented to us.
Snap this catalogue up while it's still around in hardback for such a ludicrously reasonable price. It's the perfect Christmas present - if you ever get to hand it over.
I missed this exhibition so having the catalogue like this is a great substitute. Wonderful reproductions of the works and an erudite and interesting commentary about what it all tells us. Thoroughly recommend.