After the death of one of the great miniaturists Hans Holbein, the Younger in 1543, Levina
became the court painter to Henry VIII. Over the next 20
years Levina held the office of the primary painter for the court, and was known
as the royal "paintrix" to Henry VIII. What I find interesting about
Levina is that Henry VIII paid her a higher salary than her male counterparts.
This was unheard of in her time. When Henry VIII died, she continued to
paint for Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I.
Levina (Bennick) Teerlinc was born between 1510 and 1520 in Bruges, Belgium. Levina was the oldest of 5 children. Her father was Simon Bening, he was a miniature
painter and was the main illuminator for the Ghent-Bruges school.
Levina learned her artistic skills from her father, like many other female
artists of that era. Levina married George Teerlinc in 1539, they had one son.
In 1545, Levina went to England with her husband and their son at the request of Henry
VIII. In 1546 Levina was
appointed to be the royal "paintrix" to Henry VIII. She was assigned this
position help to fill the void left
after the deaths of Hans Holbein and Lucas Horenbout.
Levina was paid £40 (around 70 US dollars) a year, this was a higher pay than the male artist earned working for Henry VIII.. Levina was also employed by both Mary I and Elizabeth I,
Levina's husband was employed as a gentleman-at-arms for Mary I and Elizabeth
I. The first record of a portrait painted by Levina was during the
rule of Edward VI.
In October 1551 Levina was paid £10 (around 18 US dollars) to
visit the future Elizabeth I and sketch out a picture of Elizabeth I. Levina's other documented
works include paintings presented as gifts to the Royalty at the beginning of
the New Year; the
first painting was a small picture of the Trinity that was presented to Queen Mary
in 1553. However, most of these paintings were
gifts for Elizabeth I, they were portraits of the Queen herself, either alone or
In 1559, Levina had the honor of presenting a
painting as a gift to Queen Elizabeth I, who sat for many portraits made by
Levina. These Paintings of Queen Elizabeth I became important in later years, as
issues arose about who painted the official portraits and images of royalty in 16th century
England. It is said that the First Great Seal of Elizabeth I was designed by
In the 1570s, the artist Nicholas Hilliard's work as painter at the royal
court overshadowed the works of Levina. Levina's achievements and her
importance suffered greatly. It is believed that many of Levina's works were
credited to Hilliard after 1570, this has caused an ongoing debate in the art
Levina Teerlinc died in London on June 23, 1576.
Levina was the most important miniaturist active in England during the
Renaissance. However, because of the lack of signed works and a
dedicated scholar to reassemble her works, Levina received very little recognition.
I find her fascinating due to the fact that she earned a higher salary than the
male artists of her time. Sadly, her achievements have gone without notice while
the male artists of her time gained fame and recognition.
For More information on other lesser known female artists that
you should read about, please check Lesser known female artists.