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Royal Collection © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
James I (1566-1625)
Reynolds 1999 29
Cust 1910 I/57
This miniature is painted in watercolour on vellum laid on playing card (the ace of diamonds). The back of the card is painted with two strips of gold paint, and between is written in gold paint, apparently by the artist, Nicholas Hilliard, the date: '1614'. This inscription is evidence for this miniature, and others of the same type (such as that in the Lyte Jewel in the British Museum) constituting the third and latest category of portrait miniature painted by Nicholas Hilliard for James I (see 420047 and 420039 for the first and second types). It is unsurprising that some scholars have seen the work of studio assistants at play in this late work by the artist and Rowland Lockey, an apprentice to Hilliard, has been linked to it. However, Graham Reynolds has concluded that 'there seems no compelling reason for removing [this miniature] from the canon of works by Hilliard himself'.
Nicholas Hilliard (1547-1619) was the son of a prominent Exeter goldsmith, Richard Hilliard. Part of his youth was spent as a Protestant exile in Germany and Geneva and he travelled abroad again in the early part of his career as a miniaturist, serving in the household of François, duc d’Alençon for a short spell beginning in late 1576. It is not known from whom he received his training as a miniaturist, but he was sufficiently successful to paint Elizabeth I in miniature from a sitting in 1572 (National Portrait Gallery, London, no. 108) and the miniatures which he went on to produce in the course of a career spanning four decades provide a gallery of the most prominent players at the Elizabethan and early Stuart court. Hilliard's successful career and the circulation of his Treatise Concerning the Arte of Limning played a crucial role in raising the status of the fledgling art form of the portrait miniature.