John Dee performing an experiment before Queen Elizabeth I. Oil painting by Henry Gillard Glindoni.

  • Glindoni, Henry Gillard, 1852-1913.
  • Pictures
  • Online

Available online

view John Dee performing an experiment before Queen Elizabeth I. Oil painting by Henry Gillard Glindoni.


Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)
You can use this work for any purpose, as long as it is not primarily intended for or directed to commercial advantage or monetary compensation. You should also provide attribution to the original work, source and licence.
Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) terms and conditions
Credit: John Dee performing an experiment before Queen Elizabeth I. Oil painting by Henry Gillard Glindoni. Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Selected images from this work

View 8 images

About this work


The scene is the house at Mortlake of Dr John Dee (1527-1608). At the court of Queen Elizabeth I, Dee was revered for the range of his scientific knowledge, which embraced the fields of mathematics, navigation, geography, alchemy/chemistry, medicine and optics. He was a Fellow of St John's College, Cambridge, and later one of the original Fellows of Trinity College (he declined a lecturing post at Oxford), and he had an international reputation. In the painting he is showing the effect of combining two elements, either to cause combustion or to extinguish it. Behind him is his assistant Edward Kelly, wearing a long skullcap to conceal the fact that his ears had been cropped as a punishment for forgery

Queen Elizabeth I paid several visits to Dee's house in Mortlake and supported his researches. In the picture the Queen sits in the left middleground, Sir Walter Raleigh is on her left, and behind him, holding a staff, is the Lord Treasurer William Cecil, 1st Lord Burghley

The painting originally showed Dee standing in a circle of skulls on the floor, stretching from the floor area in front of the Queen (on the left) to the floor near Edward Kelly (on the right). The skulls were at an early stage painted over, but have since become visible. Another pentimento is visible in the tapestry on the right: shelves containing monstrous animals are visible behind it. The pentimenti were clarified when the painting was X-rayed in 2015



Physical description

1 painting : oil on canvas ; canvas 152 x 244.4 cm


H. Gillard Glindoni

References note

Handbook of the Historical Medical Museum organised by Henry S. Wellcome, 54A, Wigmore Street, London W., 1913, p. 16 ("Corridor I. … 17. Dr Dee the astrologer demonstrating before Queen Elizabeth and her court at his house in Chelsea. H.G. Glindoni.")
Christopher Wright et al., British and Irish paintings in public collections, New Haven and London: Yale University Press for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2006, p. 367
Tony Gould (ed.), Cures and curiosities: inside the Wellcome Library, London 2007, p. 130
H.R. Woudhuysen, 'Mony mony: scholar, courtier, magician - the lost library of John Dee', TLS 29 January 2016, p. 28


Wellcome Collection 47369i

Where to find it

  • LocationStatusAccess
    Closed stores

Permanent link