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Monday, December 13, 2010

Nicholas Hilliard

Nicholas Hilliard was an English goldsmith and limner best known for his portrait minaitures of members of the court of Elizabeth. He mostly painted small oval miniatures, but also some larger cabinet minaitures, up to about ten inches tall, and at least two famous half-length panel portraits of Elizabeth. He enjoyed continuing success as an artist, and continuing financial troubles, for forty-five years. His paintings still exemplify the visual image of Elizabethen England very different from that of most of Europe in the late sixteenth century. Technically he was very conservative by European standards, but his paintings are superbly executed and have a freshness and charm that has ensured his continuing reputation as "the central artistic figure of the Elizabethan age, the only English painter whose work reflects, in its delicate microcosm, the world of Shakespeare'searlier plays."

The two panel portraits of Elizabeth. Notice the intense detail of her gowns, a way to deflect attention from the aging queen (although she does not look old here, this was not a portrait from life) as well as a way to display the wealth of her position and of England. The one on the right is titled the "Pelican" Portrait, c. 1572, due to the jeweled pelican on Elizabeth's dress (right above her hand); the one on the left is titled the "Pheonix" Portrait, c. 1575, for the pheonix on her dress (again, right above her hand).

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