TEERLINC, Levina Bening

(c. 1520-1576)
Levina Bening Teerlinc was born in Bruges and was the eldest of five daugh­ters. Her father Simon Bening and her grandfather Alexander Bening were both famous miniaturists, and Levina followed in their footsteps. Levina studied in Bruges with her father and in the late 1530s was becoming well known for her skill. By 1545 she had married George Teerlinc, and the couple moved to En­gland when they were invited by Henry VIII,* who had heard of Teerlinc's gifts as an artist, and whose earlier court artist, Hans Holbein,* had died in 1543.
In 1546 Teerlinc was granted forty pounds per annum as a court painter, the most a court artist received in England until the end of the century; she was paid considerably more than Holbein, today a far more famous artist. Teerlinc was a court painter in the reigns of Henry VIII and all three of his children, Edward VI, Mary I,* and Elizabeth I.* Around 1550 Teerlinc painted a portrait of Elizabeth as a young girl. There is a scholarly dispute, however, as to exactly which portrait this might be.
During Mary's reign she did miniatures of the queen at prayer and portraits of other noblewomen, such as Mary's cousin, Catherine Grey. When Elizabeth became queen in 1558, the new queen confirmed the patent granted by her father to Teerlinc, and Elizabeth greatly valued Teerlinc's work. Teerlinc not only painted individual portraits of Elizabeth but also portraits of Elizabeth on her tours, or progresses, through the countryside, with her knights of the Garter, and participating in various religious ceremonies such as washing the feet of poor women on Maundy Thursday. Elizabeth's first great seal was done from a design by Teerlinc. Royal accounts suggest that Teerlinc was highly respected at the English court and that all four sovereigns for whom she worked appreciated her.
Levina Teerlinc had the status of a gentlewoman. Each year she did a special picture for Elizabeth's New Year's gift, and Elizabeth in return gave her valu­able gifts. In 1566 Levina's husband George was granted the lease of a property in Stepney, where he built a new house valued at five hundred pounds. The same year George, Levina, and their son Marcus all received English citizenship. Levina clearly lived in comfortable circumstances and had high social status. She continued as a court painter until her death in 1576. Some scholars suggest that her portrait of a lady is a self-portrait since the sitter is wearing ornamental dice, and the word for dice in Flemish is teerlinc.
R. Strong, Artists ofthe Tudor Court, 1983.
Carole Levin

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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