THE SIXTEENTH-CENTURY PORTRAIT MINIATURES OF
NICHOLAS HIL'LIARD: THE INTERCONNECTIONS OF MEDIA
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I Anna Marie Eleanor Roos
B.A.,j University of Colorado, 1987
A thesis submitted to the
Faculty of the Graduate School of the
of Colorado in partial fulfillment
requirements for the degree of
| Master of Humanities
1 Humanities Program
This thesis for the Master of Humanities degree by
Anna Marie Eleanor Roos
has been approved for the
i Humanities Program
II ' 'I
Marie Eleanor (M.H., Humanities)
The Sixteenth-Century Portrait Miniatures of Nicholas
Hilliarids The Interconnections of Media
Thesis directed by Professor Frederick S. Allen
The miniature or "limning" was truly the only
original contribution to the visual arts in sixteenth-
century Engjland. A combination of jewelry, reliquary,
love toklen and secular portrait, the limning combined
techniques jof manuscript illustration with goldsmithing.
Nicholas Hilliard (1547-1619) was the premier and
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officiall miniaturist, portraitist and goldsmith to
works and a
and James I of England, producing over 171
treatise The Art of Limning. Though
Hilliard's legal monopoly on Elizabeth's and James' image
and seal makes his work historically interesting, his
miniatures also represented a communicative response to
English Renaissance societal trends. Hilliard as an
artist served, in the words of Marshall McLuhan, as a
"barometer of innovative ideas" in sixteenth-century
England.i The Renaissance print explosion, increasingly
secular concepts of time and space, and the influence of
the Reformation were all expressed in his miniatures.
Elizabethan I visual arts thus reflected ideas and trends
of less plastic media, such as print. Utilizing
iconography] historical study, and the ideas expressed in
Marshall Mcl^uhan's Understanding Media and The Gutenberg
Galaxy; The; Making of Typographic Man, it is the purpose
of this work to illustrate how Hilliard's miniature
microcosmic yorld communicated media and societal trends
of the Elizabethan world macrocosm.
The form and! content of this abstract are approved. I
recommend its publication.
To my father
List of Figures...................................
I. , WAS LIMNING A NEW MEDIA?.................
II. ! FROM MEDIEVAL MANUSCIPT TO MINIATURE...
III. FROM MEDIEVAL CRAFTSMAN TO
1 RENAISSANCE CREATOR: THE ARTIST'S
(JOURNEY INTO THE SECULAR WORLD.........
IV. THE DECLINE OF LIMNING: THE RISE OF
1 |MODERN PORTRAITURE.....................
1. Page from Ormesby Psalter, fourteenth
century, English......................... 25
2. An Elizabethan Gentleman, by Nicholas
Hilliard, c. 1588........................ 26
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WAS LIMNING A NEW MEDIA?
The miniature or "limning" was one of the few
original contributions to the visual arts of
sixteenth-icentury England. Although one can trace
its beginnings to Henry VIII1s reign with the work of
Levina Teerlinc, or even connect its small size and
brilliant Jcolor to medieval illuminated manuscripts,
the portrait miniature reached its true potential
with the work of Nicholas Hilliard (1547-1619). His
adaptation of the medieval technique of painting on
parchment,J and his use of gilt and faux jewel-making
were techniques applied in a heretofore unknown
manner.' In an age of religion, the secular purpose
of Hilliarjd's works was also distinctive. The
miniature was often placed in a locket, worn as a
sign of demotion, or given as a gift of personal
esteem.' Reminiscent of a reliquary, yet utilized for
purely mundane purposes, the limning combined
features of jewelry, personal icons, and painting
into an art form different in degree and kind from
medieval aesthetic predecessors.
milliard's techniques enjoyed a great vogue
among the Elizabethan and Jacobean aristocrats,
achieving 'a place in the intricate games of court
ritual. Their popularity and preciousness were
reflected in their prices: up to forty pounds for
one painting "in little," equivalent to the year's
salary of a yeomen. Hilliard was the first
miniaturist to be granted a royal monopoly and
pension for his talents, and as official miniaturist,
portraitist and goldsmith to Elizabeth I and James I,
produced over 171 works and a treatise The Art of
Although the large amount of primary source
material; and the artist's legal monopoly on
Elizabeth's image and seal made his work historically
interesting, Hilliard's miniatures also represented a
unique communicative response to English Renaissance
societal trends. In this sense, Hilliard the artist
served, in [the words of Marshall McLuhan as a man of
"integral awareness who grasped the implications of
his actionsj and of new knowledge in his own time."l
In other words, artists such as Hilliard anticipated
the development of new media forms, and provided
through their work both a mirror and a signpost for
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appreciating such forms. They were barometers of
innovative ideas, the plasticity of visual art in the
case of thie Hilliard miniature anticipating the
innovator! of the Renaissance print explosion and its
To delineate how the miniature medium
the impact of print on the sixteenth-
century! English Renaissance, the theories of Marshall
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McLuhan; in Understanding Media and The Gutenberg
Galaxy will be used as conceptual frameworks.
Though l^cLphan' s theories have been criticized as too
subjective] in the increasingly objective and data-
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bound discipline of communications, his theories
contain!some fertile truths. "Where Marx had located
the motive force of history in changes in the means
of production, McLuhan located it in changes in the
means of communication."2 According to McLuhan, the
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Gutenberg revolution of movable type framed
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experience!and made it sequential. Print media
transformed the Middle Ages1 emphasis on eternity and
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the hereafter into the Renaissance's fascination with
time measurement and linear modes of thought. Logic,
precision, specialization, and individualism thus
became the;hallmarks of the Renaissance print
And the limning, though small in size.
expressed these large societal trends keenly and
penetratingly. In sixteenth-century England
classical thinkers, Roman literary genre, the science
and mathematics of the Middle East, and the idea of
empirical secular thought slowly gained popularity
among the educated. Elizabeth I was schooled in the
humanist tradition, learning the clear Senecan prose
style from |original sources. Her father, Henry VIII,
was fascinated by astronomy, commissioning Italian
telescopes,! and conferring with Erasmus on what he
saw in the (heavens. Sixteenth-century England was in
the throes lof the Reformation, and the Protestant
work ethic 'was being shaped by enterprising merchant
traders ;andj upper gentry wool farmers. The trend in
religion, and business was towards
pragmatism, expansionism, secularism and nationalism.
The limning was a microcosmic miniature of this
Elizabethan, world macrocosm, and as a unique media,
carried historical messages about that world. To
define the miniature media itself, McLuhan s
role of the
hot and cold media, sense ratios, and the
artist in larger society will be used.
To delineate the historical message of Hilliard's
paintings, the miniature's development from
manuscript painting and iconography, and the changing
role of the artist in the Renaissance will be
cholas Hilliard began painting his
c works at the tender age of thirteen,
after which followed a seven-year apprenticeship to
Robert Brai'ndon, goldsmith-jeweler to Elizabeth. Like
many Elizabethan merchants and tradesmen, Hilliard
followed in his father Richard's footsteps,
his craft until he obtained membership in
the Goldsmith's Company in London by 1569. Ever
trying to further his prospects, Hilliard became
involve^ in a venture to mine Scottish gold in
1573-74 with two Flemish artists, Cornelius Devosse
and Arthusi Van Brounckhorst. Edmond speculated that
Devosse and Van Brounckhorst may have instructed
Hilliard in the art of limning before Hilliard became
a freeman.? Van Brounckhorst was known to have
limned for;King James I, so her conclusions seem
likely.; It is also possible that Hilliard may have
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received instruction from another Flemish artist,
Henry VIII's court miniaturist Levina Teerlinc, but
this cannot be proven with certainty.
At any rate, unfortunately for Hilliard, the
gold-mining scheme was a disaster. According to
Stephen, [Atkinson, a London goldsmith who published a
work entitled The Discoveries and History of the Gold
Mynes in Scotland (1619), "Mr. Hilliard and Cornelius
Devosse lost all their charges and never since got
any recompense, to Mr. Hilliard's great hindrance."4
Quick riches eluding his grasp, Hilliard
began his 'limning and goldsmithing work in earnest in
the 1570'sj, taking apprentices, and endearing himself
to noble p!atrons with some of his finest works. The
Earl of Leicester (1572), Sir Philip Sidney (1579),
and Elizabeth herself (1572) all commissioned
limnings from Hilliard during this period. His
ascent in the social scale continued with his
marriage to Alice Brandon in 1576, daughter of his
mentor, and his artistic development furthered with a
trip to Prance to provide Elizabeth with a likeness
of her latest suitor, the Due d' Alencon.
Accompanied by the English ambassador to
France, Sir Amylas Paulet, and the fifteen-year-old
Francis Bacon, Nicholas and his new wife Alice
arrived at]Calais on September 25, 1576.5 Besides
honing hisjFrench in the Due d' Alencon's household,
Hilliard met the French artist Jacques Gaultier, and
the French 'poet Ronsard. Although the miniaturist
received many commissions from the Valois court,
Hilliard was having money problems, hiding from his
English creditors for a time at the home of the
Flemish, painter "George of Ghent.Money problems,
due in part to Elizabeth's reputation as a rather
parsimonious patron, were to plague him for the rest
of his life.
However, though Elizabeth was parsimonious,
she was also demanding, and wished her miniaturist to
end his Continental travels. The portrait of Alencon
must have ^pleased her well. At any rate, in October
1578, Hilliard returned to London, and managed to
borrow seventy pounds from his father-in-law to cover
the expenses of his first-born son Daniel. The
Hilliards were to have seven surviving children
(eight werje stillborn), so the expenses of his
household must have been great.
Hilliard continued to take apprentices; m
1580 he took in one Issac Oliver, who was to become
the prominent court miniaturist under James I, and
Hilliard'Sj later competitor. Hilliard's work was also
undergoing!subtle changes, which may be due to his
exposure to the work of French miniaturists. The
portraits prior to 1577 had always been set in round
frames, but after the French travels were oval,
presumablyjto set in lockets. The backgrounds also
changed'from a uniform ultramarine blue to "red
satin" which lent the miniatures a greater delicacy
more in keeping with their small size. Elizabeth's
aging also meant evermore elaborate costuming, and
gilt ornamentation to distract from her face, giving
Hilliard's portraits of her more of a jewel-like
Hilliard continued to receive commissions in
the 1580's and 1590's in keeping with his increasing
social,, though not monetary, status. Pope-Hennessy
felt that I the 1580's were the qualitative peak of the
artist's v^ork, evidenced by the 1588 Armada Jewel,
the 1584 Second Great Seal of Elizabeth, and the
portraits :of Sir Walter Raleigh (late 1580's) and Sir
Francis Dr|ake (1581) which date from this period.^
At the sarnie time Hilliard was busying himself with
yet anothe^ scheme to get some needed cash by
becoming an orphan's suretor.
Again the scheme proved disastrous; suretors
were supposed to place orphans' legacies in prudent
investments in return for a fee when the inheritor
came of age. Hilliard borrowed money from the
legacies to supplement his income, which was a common
custom., However, when the day of reckoning came
about, he was unable to guarantee his debt. And so,
he borrowed money from one of his fellow goldsmiths
to make ends meet.
These money problems were characteristic of
the rest of the artist's life, seemingly taking
precedence over his attention to his art work.
Certainly,] his post-1590 limnings suffered a decline
in quality, and by the time he started painting for
James I in 1603, his miniatures began to suffer from
a mechanical quality. His former protege, Issac
Oliver, was also in his creative prime in the early
1600's, palinting miniatures of great psychological
subtlety, jso surely Hilliard suffered in comparison.
In addition, although Hilliard was still official
court limner under James I, more and more of his work
was being jdone by his son Lawrence, who shared little
of his father's talent. Predictably, Hilliard's
financial burdens grew everworse, until in 1617 he
was put' inj debtor's prison.
Luckily his tenure there was not long, and in
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May 1517 James I granted Hilliard a monopoly for
twelve years to make, engrave and imprint royal
representationsThe grant came two years before
his death on January 3 or 4, 1519 after a short
illness. Though most of Hilliard's belongings went
to his sonj Lawrence, there was sufficient income for
a befitting funeral. The court limner died
well-respjected and esteemed, John Donne writing in
his poem j"The Storm, "A hand, or eye by Hilliard
drawne, is worth a history.
Hilliard apparently thought so, too, for in
1598-99, he wrote A Treatise on the Art of Limning,
which delineated his techniques and ideas of
aesthetics. To explain the communicative influence
of his genre, a brief description of limning
techniques would be in order. Although Hilliard
acknowledged his debt to Holbein in his Treatise, the
techniques of limning were derived from Holbein's
instructor in limning, Lucas Hornebolte. Painting
was done in watercolor, which in the sixteenth
century was made by mixing finely-ground pigments and
gum arabic to the proper consistency. Typical colors
included \j-ermillion, ultramarine, indigo, white lead,
ceruse, arid blacks made out of "harts' [deer]
horne."}-1 j The limner's surface was vellum, a very
thin cailfskin parchment, which was applied to a
playing ca!rd with flour paste. The parchment and
laid in wi
then cut into an oval, and the painting was
th "pencils," which were small sabie or
. Hijlliard's flesh tones were
characteristically pale, with the surrounding
costumingiand gilt work taking precedence. The
limner's training as a goldsmith allowed for some
decorative work of great delicacy, and some
innovative methods for applying the pounded gilt.
For example, Hilliard's advice to utilize gum arabic
as a binder and to cut the leaf on leather was taken
by the author with excellent results.
Sometimes, as in his limning of his wife
Alice Brandon, the gilt work was so rich that the
portrait Jeemed more a jewel, or a medieval
manuscript. The bright color mosaic of costume, faux
jewels, elaborate lace work and gold inscription was
all bound jwith sinuous line, like stone settings or
decorated initials. Miniatures were also set into
lockets, to! be kept in jewel boxes or worn on the
person, as| can been seen from The Darnley Portrait of
Elizabeth 1.12 Elizabeth I even had her own little
collectionjaccording to Sir James Melville, envoy
from Mary bueen of Scots. In 1564, Elizabeth had
conducted him to her bedchamber, where she showed him
a small cabinet:
wherein were divers little pictures wrapt
within|paper, and their names written with her
own hand upon the papers. Upon the first that
she:took up was written, 'My Lord's picture'it
was the Earl of Leicester.13
Thus, it seemed Hilliard was able to successfully
combine the concepts of manuscript painting,
portraits, and goldsmithing to produce a new genre
that served as love token, jewelry, and work of art.
But this combining of media to create a new
genre is \lhat drives the development of art, and is
how art becomes a communicative form. Marshall
McLuhan remarked in his work Understanding Media that
"artistis in various fields are always the first to
discover how to enable one medium to use or to
release the power of another."14
But what type of power was Hilliard trying to
What message if any, was he trying to
cate with his limnings? Certainly there were
ings, and subjective artistic impressions
that cannot be discerned. But if we take the advice
we may get
.1 McLuhan that the "media is the message,"
McLuhan claimed the specific content of the
media piece played a clearly secondary role to its
actual media form. In this case, the particular
person a Hilliard miniature portrayed would not be as
important as the miniature genre itself. Because
was interested in types of media, he
subsequently classified media into "hot" and "cold"
forms. sbme media did not require much receiver
participation; all information was presented
wholeheartedly, usually in a neatly packaged form.
In McLuhan's words, this type of media is a hot
medium, or one which extends one single sense in high
definition. Examples would be print, or radio, which
are respectively, strongly visual and auditory and
high in information content. "Cold" media, on the
other hand, are low definition, and require high
audience participation to "fill in" missing
information. Examples would be television which
requires a multitude of senses and high attention to
With these guidelines in mind, some
preliminary observations of the Hilliard media as
message will be made. As one observes a miniature,
the first \thing one notices was its small size. A
cautious media to be sure, subtle in its grab on the
senses, yet one which requires careful attention and
'I * .
examination. The receiver is drawn into its
microcosmic contained world of decorative color.
Hilliard's! painted faces wear inscrutable looks of
fleeting ejxpression when held at arm's length, yet
when examined closely reveal exquisite attention to
detail in Ifine brushstroke and decorative jewelwork.
The miniature media is thus one which requires, and
perhaps stimulates receiver attention. Its size
requires cjlose viewing and its craftsmanship provides
a visual tjreat. Thus, one could argue the great
definition! and detail of the limning makes it a "hot"
mediums mujch visual information is in a very small
But to classify media, it is also important
to consider the role of the receiver or audience
member. The specific meaning of the miniature's
visual information would only be available to the
person for'whom the work was commissioned. Obscure
symbols I surrounded the portrait subjects: fire, tri-
colored roses, ships in stormy seas, and equally
obscure Latin phrases decorated their backs. The
subject of|Hilliard's portraits were too often
anonymous,jor symbolic of an arcane figure of
Elizabethan literature or philosophy. The symbolism
of the limning as personal gift or love token was
very private, and often Hilliard himself did not know
why he was jbeing asked to paint a particular flower,
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or inscribe a certain phrase. To the Elizabethan
that commissioned the work, the limning may have had
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very accessible information, but "outside" receivers
were required to "fill in" with their own
But it could also be argued that multi-
layered Elizabethan symbolism also required "filling-
in" on thd part of the commissioner himself. The
Elizabethajn revival of classicism, in combination
with England's rich medieval heritage resulted in a
profusion Jof Petrarchan, neo-Platonic, and Christian
aesthetic motifs. Anagrams, the pithy phrase with a
multiplicity of meanings, and the obscure reference
were prize|d. The English religious poet George
Herbert! (1593-1633) expressed his love for Christ
with paganl imagery in his "shape poems," arranging
his versesj in the forms of altars, crosses, or
"Easter! wings."15 a picture in the English
RenaissancL was indeed worth a thousand words, and
perhaps a thousand meanings. The complexity of
symbol combined with the complexity of emotion that
may have been behind the commissioning of a limning
did not make its message crystalline.
The miniature was also often placed in
lockets; meant to be turned in the hands to
appreciate!its sparkling gilt and jewelwork. When
worn in;public, the cover was closed, leaving other
receivers to speculate who the beloved wasagain the
"filling in" of information. The tactility of the
limning as jewelry diffused its purpose as only a
carrier of visual information. In other words,
Hilliard's miniature medium required multiple sense
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response and high receiver involvement. Thus, it
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better fids the requirement of a new "cool" medium.
But did artists such as Hilliard always act
to balance! hot and cold sense ratios in society?
McLuhan seated that "each new impact shifted the
ratios!among the senses," and that artists provided
the immiinity from such impacts. 16 Thus, an artist
like Hilliard balanced the hot and cold sense ratios
before the new technology, in this case printing, had
;For printing emphasized the visual senses
before all. others, the phonetic alphabet translating
"man from the magical world of the ear to the neutral
visual world."1^ According to the McLuhan thesis,
the introduction of letter-type, together with the
: ! \
increase m literacy in the fifteenth century, had
inculcatedjthe new habit of reading a book
consecutively from beginning to end and thereby
generated linear modes of thought. Sequential prose
narratives I were thus encouraged which were more
to the fixed orders of chronological and
spatial organization than had been familiar from
On the other hand, in the medieval oral
tradition> each word had resonance, encompassing
audile and tactual qualities"the words touched me.
Joseph Campbell explained, for example, that the
improper yay to read scripture was "in reading the
words in terms of prose instead of in terms of
poetry,; reading the metaphor in terms of the
denotation instead of the connotation."1^ Oral
poetry's goal was as much to convey alliterative,
pleasing sound as to connote an idea by association
with subconscious ideas. The role of printed prose
was to ivisually convey information, denoting
conclusions from preceding facts in a linear logical
manner-;-presenting a point of view.
For the printed word gave instructions for a
particular set of sounds, made according to arbitrary
rules of pronunciation. Thus, printed words could be
said many (different ways with many types of dialects.
: thje result is that each sound we hear when we
listen to anyone speaking is merely a
representative member of a large class of sounds
which we have agreed to accept as symbolically
identijcal in spite of the actual differences
The oral cjulture was thus subjugated to the rules of
the print1 culture, with its visual stress. McLuhan
felt this j reduction of experience to the scale of one
visual sense engendered the habit of a fixed position
or "pointjof view" natural to a reader of type.21
! Tljiis habit of "point of view" led to the
Renaissance interest in perspective, which organized
space, and defined objects in a similar mathematical
manner.,22 j pictures, with the camera obscura, like
print, iwitLh movable type, could be repeated
mechanically, visually homogenizing experience.
However, the flat mosaic of the Middle Ages, on the
other hand expressed a dynamism missing in the inert
homogeneity of three-dimensionality. Much like the
later development of Cubism, which sought to present
several' points of view on the same canvas,
Me'dieval painters often repeated the main
figure many times in the same picture. Their
purposje was to all possible relationships that
affected him, and they recognized this could be
done o'nly by a simultaneous description of
various actions. This connectedness in meaning,
rather! than the mechanical logic of geometrical
optics, is the essential task of
inas in his Summa realized too that the
aesthetic Ivisio is not only physical seeing, but a
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complex apprehension of an object.24
Hilliard's miniatures, rather than presenting
fixed point of view, imitated medieval art by
represented a mosaic of color and symbol that alluded
to events| and ideas. As such, Hilliards miniatures
avoided the latest fashion of Italian three-point
perspective. Although Hilliard was certainly
familiar with Lomazzo's Trattato dell1 arte dell
pittura (|584), extensively quoting from its passages
on line and light, he seemed cautious about
1 Painting perspective, and forshortning of
line,1[is] with due shadoing acording to the rule
of the eye, by falshood to expresse truth in very
cunning of line, and . perspective, to define
it,brefly, is an art . for a man to express
anything in shortned lines, and shadowes, to
deseave bothe the understanding and the eye.25
Other than its ability to "deseave the eye," Hilliard
said no more on the subject. And, from the few full-
length portrait miniatures thatsurvive, such as the
Elizabethan Gentlemen (late 1580's) with its
impossibly long elegant legs, and the portrait of Sir
Christopher Hatton (1590) with its improbable
foreshortening, it was unlikely Hilliard knew much
more than .be expressed in his treatise.
l1. Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media:
The Extensions of Man (New Yorks New American
Library, 1964), 71.
2l John M. Blum and others, eds., The
National Experience: A History of the United States,
4th ed., (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.,
i 3* Mary Edmond, Hilliard and Oliver: The
Lives and 1 Works of Two Great Miniaturists (London:
Robert Hale, 1983), 73.
4i Stephen Atkinson, The Discoveries and
History of the Gold Mynes in Scotland (London: n.p.,
5> Edmond, 67.
6. Ibid., 65.
7. John Pope-Hennessey, foreword to Nicholas
Hilliard's Art of Limning, by Nicholas Hilliard
(Boston: jNortheastern University Press, 1983), xvi.
8. Edmond, 79.
9. ! Ibid., 178.
10j. John Donne, "The Storm," in John Donne:
The Satires, Epigrams, and Verse Letters, ed. W.
Milgat^ (London: Oxford University Press, 1967), 55.
llj. Nicholas Hilliard, Nicholas Hilliard's
Art of Limning> with a Foreword by Sir John Pope-
Hennessey,! a Transcription by Arthur Kinney, and a
Commentaryj and Apparatus "The Art of Nicholas
Hilliard" by Linda Bradley Salamon (Boston:
Northeastern University Press, 1983), 59.
12. The Darnley Portrait/ oil on wood, 1575,
National Portrait Gallery, London, as reproduced in
Elizabeth Pomeroy, Reading the Portraits of Queen
ElizabethiI (Hamden^ Conn.: Archon Books, 1989),
plate 3. |
i 13. Sir James Melville, Memoirs of Sir James
Melville of Halhill 1535-1617, ed. A. Francis Stewart
(New York: n.p., 1930), 91.
14. McLuhan, 17.
15. George Herbert, "Easter Wings," in
Literature of Renaissance England, Oxford Anthology
of English Literature Series, ed. John Hollander and
Frank kermode (New Yorks Oxford University Press,
16. McLuhan, 70.
1^. Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy;
the Making of Typographic Man (Toronto: University of
Toronto Press, 1962; reprint, New York: Macmillan,
1968), 18 j(page references are to reprint edition).
; 18. Murray Roston, Renaissance Perspective
in Literature and the Visual Arts (Princeton:
Princeton (University Press, 1987), 193.
, 19j. Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth, with
Bill Moyeijs, ed. Betty Sue Flowers (New York:
Doubleday,| 1988), 57.
!* 1 j
20j. William Ivins, Prints and Visual
Communication (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul,
21|. McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy, 125.
22. Ibid., 125.
1 23j. Gregory Kepes, The Language of Vision
(Chicago: Paul Theobald, 1939), 126-^27 .
, 24. Umberto Eco, Art and Beauty in the
Middle Ages, trans. Hugh Bredin, 3d ed. (New Haven:
Yale University Press, 1986), 73.
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FROM MEDIEVAL MANUSCRIPT TO MINIATURE
Rather, his oeuvre represented a throwback to
medieval manuscripts that in their familiarity
provided knowledge of how to cope with the psychic
and social consequences of printing and Renaissance
philosophy. For the word "limning" derives from
"illuminating." A recent study by Roy Strong
suggested I that the chief influence on Hilliard's art
was the influence of Burgundian manuscripts carried
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by emigres of the Ghent/Bruges school to the Tudor
j ^ "
royal l'ibrjary.l Certainly it is also possible that
Hilliarjd's trip to France also gave him the
opportunity to see illuminated manuscripts, though
this ca'nnot be documented. But the tradition of
illumination gave Hilliard a medium, and the
beginnings of a technique.
I For the illuminated manuscript was a time-
honored! cojld medium of the medieval oral culture.
Manuscript's were scarce, and thus university students
of the middle ages had books dictated to them. Only
in this way could a student obtain his own copy of a
particular work.2 In order to receive an accurate
copy, great stress was laid on training instructors
in clear Latin pronunciation:
The teaching of pronuntiatio was one of the
fundamental tasks of Latin grammatica; and the
manuals of grammar devoted a good deal of detail
to ,thiJs question. . Manuals of grammar took
care to say clearly that all this training served
the ends of teaching writing. . The act of
writing silently without intervention of the
reading the text aloud, was not yet possible at
So, verbal organization, even on the written page,
had an ora|l bias in medieval manuscripts.
Thiis oral bias carried forth in the
illuminations, which were memory devices for guiding
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an oral1 presentation. Just as pronuntiatio was
important lin a rhetorical or instructional
presentation, memoria was also necessary. Practical
considerations, such as a lack of manuscripts, made a
scholar! memorize his material, and the illustrations
alongside ja manuscript guided him along as he was
doing so. j For example, a page from the
fourteenthj-century Ormesby Psalter allegorically
contrasted the heavenly harmonies of King David
playing the harp within the decorated initial with
the human discord within the borders of the page.4
Below the|text are men wrestling, and a soldier
recoiling in terror at the sight of a snail1 (Figure
1). It was probable the humorous nature of these
little pictures prevented the scholar from dozing off
during his memorization sessions. In a more general
sense, 'since more of the population could recall
material fhan read, the medieval tradition of
allegorical symbol to help the observer remember a
particular; event or theme was well grounded.
Huizinga mentioned that the;
Mijddle Ages never forgot that all things
would jbe absurd, if their meaning were exhausted
in their function and their place in the
phenomenal world, if by their essence they did
not; re^ach into a world beyond this.5
Things had a deeper spiritual meaning beyond their
material existence, and the hierarchy of symbols the
medievals developed acted to organize the
significance of being. Hilliard's miniatures also
were allegjorical in symbol and color, and often
arcane.! For example, the Elizabethan Gentleman
(Figurei2) showed a young man leaning against a tree,
his hand in his waistcoat, surrounded by eglantine
and roses.] His identity remained unknownhe has
been identified as the Earl of Essex, the melancholic
lover, and|the faithful youth. The inscription Pat
Stefan cm mam ifaitn
Tun temmcmncammam qiiain,
jrafflhmrfEftmw tmimsnn uttnfi
Kanatrmticomrma rntynn mftgniot
jmapjetepnim in ifrad cftr? ituimum
iirtetma egyjmrnnguam quam n
mmrrabtDtimb) tmfum ciuannanu^
Figure 'Is j Page from Ormesby Psalter, fourteenth
| Squrce: Murray Roston, Renaissance
Perspectives in Literature and the Visual Arts
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987), 17.
Figure 2s jAn Elizabethan Gentleman by Nicholas
Hilliard, painted c. 1588, watercolor on vellum, 5
3/8 x 2i3/4 inches.
; Source: Waldemar Januszczak, Techniques of
the World's Great Painters (Secaucus, New Jerseys
Chartwell Books, 1982), 39.
poenas,llaudata fides, "my faith, though praised,
brings suffering," added to the mystery. Were the
roses and Ithorns symbols of the trials and
tribulations of love, and the eglantine a
representation of Elizabeth I? The differing
interpretations by Mary Edmond and John Pope-
Hennessey jillustrate what a puzzle this limning
Buft the use of vague symbolism also
represented medieval origins. Symbols represented
thinking in terms of characteristics and essences,
which werej abstracted and compared. Red roses and
thorns could represent the beauty of love of another
or love of! Christ, the thorns the tribulations or the
crown of thorns, the red flower the heart or blood.
Yet the formation of symbols was also artistic.
Umberto Eco stated:
Toj decipher [symbols] was to experience them
aesthetically. It was a type of aesthetic
expression in which the Medievals took great
pleasure in deciphering puzzles, in spotting the
daringj analogy, in feeling that they were
involved in adventure and discovery.^
It seems the Elizabethans, like the Medievals, also
enjoyed!such symbolic puzzles. This delight in
symbol permeated their art, literature, and their
very philosophy; the Elizabethan Great Chain of Being
was a set iof symbols arranged hierarchically to
represent jphysical and spiritual reality.
i Thje idea of the chain was to express the
plentitiadej of God's creation, stretching from the
creator toj inanimate objects. The chain was
orderly-, but infinite in its progression, as was the
divine will. Although Lovejoy traced the genesis of
the idea tb the hierarchy of Plato's ideal vs. real
worlds, the specific Elizabethan idea of ordered
plenitude was expressed by St. Augustine:
Why, when God made all things, he did not
make them all equal . if all things were
equal,|all things would not be; for the
multiplicity of kind of things of which the
universe is constitutedfirst and second and so
on, down to the creatures of the lowest grades
would not exist.
Such an-idea implied that "literally allthat is,
all possiblethings ought to be."^-^ Hence the
gothic gargoyles, the half-man, half-beast creatures
from classic mythology, the very incongruity of
symbol and fantastic creatures that populated the
Elizabethan world. Caliban and Ariel in
Shakespeare's The Tempest were familiar personages in
a world that classified and ranked angels. Thus, the
incongruity of symbol, aside from being a delightful
puzzle, also expressed the idea that God's love was
expressed in his creative or generative powers, and
therefore,the things of God were best represented by
The idea that beauty and variety were
equivalent expressions of God's plentitude carried
over into |the medieval aesthetic ideal of abundant
ornamentation. As Huizinga stated:
Art in medieval times was still wrapped up in
life. Its function was to fill with beauty the
forms [assumed by life. . All the works and
all the joys of life, whether dependent on
religion, chivalry, trade, or love, had their
marked form. The task of art was to adorn all
these [concepts with charm and color; it is not
desired for its own sake, but to decorate life
with the splendor which it could bestow.11
Hilliard, [with his gilt work, and decoration of his
subjects' rich dress with faux jewels, indulged in
this idealj of splendor with great alacrity.
Buit, like the chain of being, it was a
various an'd ordered splendor. Everpresent in
medieval aesthetics were the ideas of symmetry and
proportion!. Vitruvius' canon on the proportions of
the body, and Pythagorus' delineation of the order of
music and mathematics were quite influential in
imposing this order on the plastic and figurative
arts.12 Umberto Eco stated:
The principle of proportion was also the
basis for a kind of heraldic symbolism employed
in1, architectural practice. This was an esoteric
business, a kind of mysticism of proportion. It
began] with the Pythagoreans, and although it was
exorcised by Scholasticism it lived on in artisan
circles as a kind of heraldry. . This is the
most likely explanation for the frequency of
pentagonal motifs in Gothic art, especially rose
ornaments in cathedrals. The five-petalled rose
was an image of the pentad, in addition to its
many other symbolic meanings in medieval times,
from the Romance of the Rose to the War of the
The Tudorjmonarchs' reign began with Henry VII's
victory over the Lancastrian house in the War of the
Roses, and until the end of the family line with
Elizabeth'I, was always symbolized by the Tudor rose.
The five-petaled rose, which appeared in many
Hilliard miniatures, was red at the periphery, and
white at the center to symbolize the marriage of the
"red rose" Tudor Henry VII with the "white rose," the
Lancastrian Elizabeth of York. With Henry's victory,
the two houses were joined in peace, the bloodlines
sharing power in symbolic symmetry and thus ensuring
the progression of the Tudor line.
As symbols were in themselves symmetric, so
was the space in which they were enclosed. Although,
as mentioned, the two-dimensional space presented
many viewpoints at once like a Cubist painting, these
viewpoints had to be ordered as well. Hence the
medieval Jaw of the "frame."14 starting in the later
Romanesque period, "the architectural limits of the
parts of a portal or the shape of a capital were
as frames to which the sculptors
accommodated their work."*^ For example, the Prophet
Jeremiah f|rom the trumeau1** of the south portal of
St. Pierre, was compressed within the pillar, his
crossed stepping trapped within its mass. His face,
however, was that of an enthralled mystic, an image
of the Ivitla contemplativa. 1? Gardner stated:
Itj has been said of Greek sculpture that the
body becomes "alive" before the heady in the
epoch [that begins in the eleventh century, the
head became humanly expressive will before the
body i|s rendered as truly corporeal. The Moissac
Jeremijah is a remarkable instance of this.1**
Much could be said of the Hilliard miniature.
All were framed within an enclosed space, Hilliard
cutting: hijs vellum into a circle, oval, or square,
and then painting in the portrait. The figures were
bound by their frame, the full-length miniature
portraits,) such as the one of Sir Christopher Hatton,
static,)yet symmetrically placed. But the faces were
indeed expressive, undoubtedly contributing to
Hilliard's reputation as a limner. Hilliard often
tried to catch "thosse lovely graces wittye smilings,
and thosse stolne glances which sudeainly like
lightCn]ing passes and another Countenance taketh
place."19; xt seems Hilliard was well able to balance
the wishes of his patrons and his personal taste, for
choosing to limn what delights the eye. Though
Hilliard's miniatures presented gazes of cool
countenance, the charm of a personality perhaps
represented only by slightly upturned lips, or
sparkling |eyes, the result was none the less
thoughtlful portraiture in an ordered medium.
Thle miniaturist's gilding techniques were
also prescribed by subtle and refined order, and
reflected ja medieval heritage. Hilliard's use of
gold was similar to its use by manuscript
illuminato'rsy it was for highlighting only. Touches
of gold added literal, though subtle brilliance to
es of the courtiers As in Botticelli's
Birth of Venus,20 the gilding is not easily visible
when reproduced, but the effect is truly remarkable
when one actually moves around the painting, and the
gold catches the light. The effect would even be
more immediate for the miniature as it was held in
the hand and turned. Hilliard's request to decorate
the late Queen's tomb in 1606 illustrated his ideas
as a Goldsmith, I understand how to set
foorthe and garnishe a pece of some work, not
with much gylding to hyde the beawty of the
stonei but where it graces . . and no more.21
An ordered splendor indeed.
Hilliard illustrated the same concern for
ornamental symmetry in his use of faux jewels. His
palette was even described in terms of jewels, there
besides white, and black, but fvye perfect
cullors in the world which I prove by the fyve
principall precious stones; ammatist for Murrey,
Rubie |for red, Saphire for blewe, Emrold for
greene, and Topies for yellowe.
Like the rainbow, gems "sheweth the naturall mixture
of cullors, and a sweete and agreeable varieitie in
their mixtures.. in such a kindly beautifull order,
as all the! art of the worlde cannot amend it. "23
Variety and order were important, for these stones
were elemental. "Gems were not mere ornaments to
enhance hi's sitters, but an important part of the
reality Hilliard painted."24
Here Hilliard reflected the Medieval love for
bright color. Although the need for proportion and
order of variety became a metaphysical system for the
Elizabethans, their experience of color was similar
to the MedLevals; a "lively feeling for the purely
sensuous properties of things."25 The chromatic
decisiveness of a Hilliard miniature had none of the
Italian sfumato2** or chiaroscuro2^ to darken its
brilliance. Like the medieval illuminators, the
color's hue in a Hilliard miniature was determined by
Hilliard mentioned in his Art of Limning that
he had painted Elizabeth in the "open ally of a
goodly garden, where no tree was neere, nor anye
shadowe ai all."2** in other words, at noon, with no
shadows to obscure her face. The use of shadow was
only recommended to flatter a lady who was "to palle,
too red, or frekled," for "beauty and good favor is
like cleare truth, which is not shamed with the
light, nor neede to bee obscured."2^ Hilliard's
implied equivalence of beauty, truth, and light was
much likeBonaventure's idea that light was the
principle of all beauty, "not only because it was
delightful to the senses, but also because it was
through light that all the variations in color and
luminosity;, both in heaven and on earth, came into
being."30 j So, the miniature was painted on vellum,
to let the; light shine through, as in a Gothic
cathedral |where the light glows through an open
An!d, each decorative detail was designed to
reflect that light. Hilliard therefore devoted a good
part of his treatise to techniques of painting faux
gems, packing the spots of pigment with burnished
silver]to enhance their brilliance, and shadowing
white paint to imitate the translucence of pearls.
Each decorative detail was also given equal
significance; the description of how to draw features
in the(Treatise was given as much treatment as jewel
decoration. The eyes were indeed like sapphires, the
lips ruby red, and the complexion as creamy as the
lace ruffjthat encircled it. All details worked
together lo produce the coherent microcosmic mosaic
that was a Hilliard miniature. The plentitude of
, j. 'j
symmetrically placed baubles, ribbons, and "chains"
of the pendants a Hilliard subject wore were a
reflection of ordered being and the splendor of life.
] When the miniature when put into a locket, it
also decorated life, serving as an accessory to the
well-dressed nobleman, and as a gift of esteem or
1579 Queen Elizabeth gave Sir Francis Drake
an enameled and cameoed gold jewel surrounded with
amonds, and pendant pearls, containing her
portrait by Hilliard and her Phoenix emblem of
and strength renewed. Drake can be seen
wearing his reward for pirating Spanish treasure
shipswith the miniature hidden under the
coverin jan oil portrait in the National Maritime
Museum, Greenwich.31 As mentioned, Hilliard was
often commissioned to do limnings of Elizabeth's
potential Jsuitors, which also was the main purpose of
portraiturje in the Middle Ages:
In| the Middle Ages portraits were ordered for
all; sorts of purposes, but rarely to obtain a
masterpiece of art. Besides gratifying family
affection and pride, the portrait served to
enable! betrothed persons to make acquaintance.
Court chroniclers liked to keep up the fiction
that the royal fiance had fallen in love with the
unknown princess on seeing her portrait.32
Sometimes this could backfire, as in the case of Anne
of Cleves,|Henry VIII's fourth wife. The Holbein
miniature was a bit too successful in flattering the
lady's charms, and Henry was so disappointed when
faced with|the real person that they divorced soon
after their marriage. The power of the cold media
of miniature portraiture to involve the receiver was
Though the media was involving, it was seen
by the Elizabethans as an example of applied,
practical craft, but not as a creative art. This
attitude also came out of the Medieval tradition,
illustrating how Hilliard's miniatures bridged Middle
Ages and Renaissance aesthetic ideals. The Medievals
did not have any conception of art as a creative
force in itself.33 Instead of expression, art was
construction, an operation aiming at a specific
The word artifex applied alike to
blacksmiths, orators, poets painters, and sheep-
shearers .... Ars was a concept with a broad
extension . first and foremost a theory of
craftsmanship. The artificer constructed
something that completed, integrated, or
The artist was then seen as a mere craftsman before
the idea of the Renaissance creator became prevalent.
St. Bonaventure stated that "the soul can make new
compositions, but it cannot make new things."35
This may explain why Hilliard was throughout most of
his career; treated more as a servant of the crown,
and paid poorly or delinquently for his work. He was
seen as a ^craftsman, making objects for a particular
purpose tlJat preponderated over their purely
aesthetic 'value. After all, it was not until
Hilliard was appointed official miniaturist of James
I, that hej was saluted as "Nicholas Hilliard,
Gentleman."36 This was two years before Hilliard's
death. I i
1.1 Roy Strong, The Cult of Elizabeth?
Elizabethan Portraiture and Pageantry (London:
Thames and Hudson, 1977), p"I 2.
2.1 Istvan Hajnal, L 1 Enseignment de
l'ecritur^ aux universites medievales, [The
Importance of Writing to Medieval Universities], 2d
ed., (Budapest: Academia Scientiarum Hungarica
Budapestini, 1959); 94-99, quoted in Marshall
McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of
Typographic Man (Toronto: University of Toronto
Press, 1962; reprint, New York: Macmillan, 1968),
96-97, n. 102.
4. | Murray Roston, Renaissance Perspective in
Literatures and the Visual Arts (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1987), 16.
5. | J. Huizinga, The Waning of the Middle
Ages (New1 York: Doubleday, 1954), 194.
6.j See Mary Edmond, Hilliard and Oliver:
The Lives and Works of Two Great Miniaturists
(London: Robert Hale, 1983), 101; and John Pope-
Hennessey,]The Portrait in the Renaissance
(Washington, D.C.: Pantheon Books, 1963), 98.
7.1 Umberto Eco, Art and Beauty in the Middle
Ages, trans. Hugh Bredin, 3d ed. (New Haven: Yale
University]Press, 1986), 55.
8. j E. M. W. Tillyard, The Elizabethan World
Picture: (New York: Vintage, n.p.), 26.
9. ! Arthur Lovejoy, The Great Chain of Being:
A Study:ofjthe History of an Idea (Cambridge: Harvard
University!Press, 1936), 66.
i 11. Huizinga, 223-24.
. 12j. Eco, 39.
: 13j. Ibid.
14|. Ibid., 40.
15!. Helen Gardner, Art Through the Ages, ed.
Horst de la Croix and Richard Tansey, 8th ed. (New
Yorks Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, 1986),
i 16i. Gardner defines a trumeau in Art Through
the Ages |(983) as a pillar in the center of a
Romanesque, or Gothic portal.
17'. Ibid., 360.
19|. Nicholas Hilliard, Nicholas Hilliard's
Art of Limning, with a Foreword by Sir John Pope-
Hennessey,j a Transcription by Arthur Kinney, and a
Commentary! and Apparatus "The Art of Nicholas
Hilliard" by Linda Bradley Salamon (Boston:
Northeastern University Press, 1983), 23.
20. Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus,
tempera; onj canvas with gilt, 1482, Galleria degli
Uffizi,, Florence, as reproduced in Gardner, plate I8-
2lj. Nicholas Hilliard, London, to Robert
Cecil, London, November 1604. place of transcript
not given,J quoted in Erna Auerbach, Nicholas Hilliard
(Londons Thames and Hudson, 1961), 37, n. 123.
22. Hilliard, Art of Limning, 38.
24|. Ibid., 86.
25;. Eco, 44.
26. Gardner defines sfumato in Art Through
the Ages j(982) as a smoke-like haziness that subtly
softens outlines in painting, particularly applied to
the painting of Leonardo and Correggio.
27. Gardner defines chiaroscuro in Art
Through the Ages (977) as in painting or drawing,
the treatment and use of light and dark, especially
the gradations of light that produce the effect of
Hilliard, Art of Limning, 29.
Hilliard, Art of Limning, 97.
St. Bonaventure, Opera Omnia, (Florence:
37, quoted in Eco, 95, n. 16.,
FROM MEDIEVAL CRAFTSMAN TO RENAISSANCE CREATOR: THE
ARTIST'S JOURNEY INTO THE SECULAR WORLD
But it is to be conceded that Hilliard was
the firstjminiaturist to be recognized for his work.
His skillJ was eulogized by John Donne and Henry
Constable| and he was compared to "the late-worlds-
wonder,,Raffaell Urbine or Raphael by his admirer
Haydocke.^ Hilliard was also concerned about
personal fame after his death. As Edmond mentioned,
Hilliard in the Art Of Limning exhorted artists to
put their souls into their works. If the artist was
' tliis comfort shall he have then above others,
even an heaven of joy in his heart to behold his
owri well doings remaining to his credit
forever. . Aye more comfort may he have, both
praise and even honour in the sight of men
living, and fame for ever after; and princes
commonly give them competent means by which they
are etlernized and famously remembered [my
Hilliard thus wished to become immortal through his
works, much as Shakespeare claimed and promised to
the young |man in the sonnets, "So long as men can
breathe and eyes can see, / So long lives this,' and
' 1 |
this gives life to thee."3
; This concept of immortality realized via
secular works was a novel idea particular to the
Renaissance. Hilliard thus helped to bridge the
transition between medieval craftsman and Renaissance
creator. His quest for fame, as the miniatures
themselves, also represented the influence of the
print explosion on Renaissance England. McLuhan
Under manuscript conditions the role of being
an; author was a vague and uncertain one, like
that of being a minstrel. Hence self-expression
was of little interest. Typography, however,
created a medium in which it was possible to
speak out loud and bold to the world itself, just
as |it was possible to circumnavigate the world of
bobks previously locked up in a pluralistic world
of^monastic cells. Boldness of type created
boldness of expression.4
' i ,1
Under manuscript conditions the role of artist was
also vhgue and uncertain; medieval stonemasons did
not even sign their works until the twelfth century,
and the life of Hilliard's predecessor, Levina
Teerliric, was obscured by time.
But Hilliard, by writing his Art Of Limning,
"i j -
with its pleas for patronage of the arts, its
complaints that foreign artists received better
treatment than Englishmen, was bold in expression and
opinion, j Although, "princes comonly give [artists]
competentjmeanes," and Hilliard praised "King Henry
the eightj a Prince ... of Royall bounty," such
means were not available to him.5 Hilliard lamented
the fate of one English painter John Bosham, who had
"skill worthy to have bene Sergant Painter to any
king of Emperour," but who could not afford colored
pigments,I and so "gave painting cleane over."
Bosham1s change of career to a "reading Minister,"
was "only|unfortunat becasses he was english borne,
for even the strangers would other wisse have set him
upp."6 In other words, if Bosham would have been on
the Continent, he would have had artistic patronage,
but beingjEnglish"woe be unto him as unto an
untimly Birth,"he had to sublimate his talents.?
; Hilliard used another artist as an example of
the lack of artistic patronage in England so as not
to offendjany of his royal benefactors, but his
complaints were clear. Hilliard wanted adequate
renumeration for his work, and he also wanted to be
remembered. For all "painting imitateth nature or
.1, 'i .
the life in every thinge it resembleth . but of
all things the perfection is to imitate the face of
man kind."8 The artist was not, in Hilliard's eyes,
a craftsman whose role was to slavishly copy nature.
Art imitated nature, but in its manner of operation.
Art required ingenuity, and was productive just as
nature]was, integrating man's formative energies with
those of nature. Correct proportion was important,
as wasjtechnique, but Hilliard stated a "lively
likeness" was the best indicator of a work of
quality. What was recognized by Hilliard was the
attempt to bring credibly into art the essential
vitality or "lively likeness" of which the external
detail|was the manifestation. An inspired "kind"
imitation guided by the artist's eye was the goalin
other v|rords a creative work. "Nicholas Hilliardus,"
he lettered proudly in gold around the rim of his
self-portrait, aurifabor sculptor et Celebris
Illuminator serenissimae reginae elizabethae, "gold
sculptor and celebrated Limner for the most serene
Queen Elizabeth.Hilliard styled himself as a
celebrated limner, celebrating his talents as a
creator worthy of fame.
But he celebrated only in connection with
Elizabeths serenissimae reginae elizabethae. After
all, Elizabeth's name was often remembered more than
her artists and poets, with the exception of
Shakespeare. It was the Elizabethan age. And when
that term was used, it referred largely to the men of
letters, such as Sidney or Marlowe, whereas the
artists lilke Hilliard, or Ghirhardtts were more
readily forgotten. But, by the time of Charles I's
reign, Van Dyke and Inigo Jones became common
historical] figures, on equal terms of fame with their
literary counterparts. The talent of the individual
creative figures aside, it seemed that although the
plastic arid figurative arts came into their own at
of Hilliard's lifetime, during Hilliard's
life poetry was considered a finer "art" than the
"craft" of painting.
Salamon noted this preference for the
literary arts when she stated:
Throughout the sixteenth century, while
English poetry written and defended by knights
and earls was brilliantly acclaimed, the fine and
appliejd arts were produced largely by guildmen
doing piecework to order in near-anonymity. A
Hilliard . was an exception. Aware of his
rare talent, Hilliard scraped to survive . .
not: born to wealth or status, he lived surrounded
by courtiers and painted men whose rank was quite
new. .'] . No wonder he hoped to bring about
The tradition of poets having more status than
painters was medieval, based on a Scholastic theory
of art which was wholly objectivist.H Painting,
sculpture,| and architecture were valued entirely for
practical purposes. These "servile" arts were only
considered a "fine arts whenever they were didactic,
purveying jtruths of faith or of science through the
pleasures jof the beautiful."12 The illiterate could
understand scripture by the use of pictures, or as
mentioned,! use the symbols as memory aids.
Architects', sculptors, and painters were also often
employed ih the context of urban and architectural
construction, and thus were part of a team effort
that resuljted in little individual recognition.
TlJe poets however participated in a medium
characterized by individual effort. As Umberto Eco
; Fr^pm the eleventh century .onwards, poets were
quite |aware that their work was a means of
immortality. . The illustrators were always
monks,] and master masons were artisans tied to
their Guild, but the new generation of poets were
always! court poets, immersed in the life of the
Aristojcracy and honored in the households where
they lived. The poet did not work for God, nor
for a pommunityy he did not work at projects
which yrould be completed by others after him; he
did not try for the approval of the erudite.
What h]e wanted was the glory of quick success and
And, the pjaet received this fame, his status as
artist insjured well before the Renaissance. The
poet's work was after all the ultimate expression of
the medieval oral tradition. Although it was not
until the 1 Renaissance that the artist's personal
pride was jbased upon the belief his work was personal
and original, the poet was the carrier of the past
oral literature, and honored as such.14
Sir Philip Sidney's Apology for Poetry (1582)
in which lie stated poetry was the "monarch of the
sciences" iwas thus well grounded in the medieval
tradition;1 the idea that the poet was to teach, "to
stirreth alnd instructeth the mind, so the lofty image
of such worthies most inflameth the mind with desire
to be worthy," was an echo of the Middle Ages'
objectivisjt aesthetics.15 Even for the poets, there
was no "arts for arts' sake." Publishing one's works
was considered ungentlemanly; private love sonnets
were not to be made public.
And the limnings of Hilliard were also
private, covered and kept in jewel boxes or lockets.
It was not; until Charles I's reign in the 1630's that
miniatures, migrated from the bedside to the
connoisseur's cabinet, and were thus collected for
their own intrinsic beauty.1 In the Elizabethan
age, however, a limning served mainly practical
purposes, whether it was as a courtly gift of love.
as a commemorative token, or an icon of rank. It was
not yet appreciated as an object d1 art.
So in the utilitarian sense, limnings
remained a medieval "servile art," and were thus said
by Strong jto be representative of "English
neomedievalism.But the key prefix is "neo," for
the purposes which the limnings were supposed to
serve were distinctly Elizabethan, and reflective of
the growing secularism of the age.
Ttie increase in secularism and neo-
medievalism could in part, be attributed to the
Protestan-tl Reformation. After Henry VIII's death in
1547, there was virulent Protestantism with a
heritage of destruction of religious art. In part to
finance his French war debts, and in part to assert
his authority in spiritual matters as head of the
English Church, Henry ordered the Dissolution of the
Monasteries. Before his death, the monarch had
parted with two-thirds of the monastic estates, sold
mostly |to jwealthy and ambitious gentry who wished to
increase their land holdings. Much of the
monasteries religious art work was looted; Henry's
minister Tjhomas Cromwell had declared the monastic
houses corrupt with the venalities of "popery," which
made the art tainted by association. In 1538 the
treasuresjof the thirteenth-century saint Thomas a'
Becket's tomb were even absorbed by the crown
treasury; | Becket had challenged Henry II's
authorityJ appealed to Rome, and thus was guilty of
violating |the Statute of Praumenire, and so of
treason. lAs a traitor, Becket was to be disinterred,
and his "possessions" confiscated.
: Tlie wholesale destruction of England's
medieval airt work increased under Edward VI1 s reign
(1547-1553), but the reasons were not as overtly
financialJ as religious. In May 1537 curates were
ordered., to take down all "images which were objects
of pilgrimage or offering, and all monuments within
1 : :
the church fabric which, could be construed as
idolatrousj. "1 Thus, between 1547-53 in hundreds of
parish chu|rches, stained glass windows were smashed,
tombs werej broken up and statues removed or
decapitated, on the grounds that they encouraged
idolatry.Ip The final blow came in February 1548,
, I . /
when the Protectorate Council ordered that "all the
images remaining in any church or chapel . be
removed':anjd taken away."20
Thks campaign against religious art accounted
for the virtual non-existence of religious painting
in the sixteenth century, and resulted in an extreme
caution and sometimes hostility toward even secular
images. Strong mentioned that Sir Edward Hoby wrote
a chapter!dedicated to painters and poets as the
purveyors!of lewdness and deceit, and Sidney in his
Defense of Poesy cautioned against works created
merely to-delight; they must delight and instruct in
proper moral conduct.
The wholesale destruction of medieval English
art, arid the suspicions regarding imagery seemed to
account for the strictly secular nature of
miniatures, for the Tudor court's return to neo-
medievalism to regain the heritage they had lost, and
for the emphasis on miniaturization in the first
place. As noted by the previous analysis of the
miniature as media, the genre by its very size
indicated ja cautious private approach to the
portrayal jof individual psychology. The obscurity of
symbol was] a reflection of the medieval love of
but it also was an attempt to mask a
limning1s true intent. Apparently the
Elizabethans' "coding" of their portraits was
for their symbolic meanings continue to
elude art! historians.
But these riddling emblematics were also
indicative of an age that increasingly recognized
individuajlity; some of the symbols, such as the Tudor
rose, served as imprese. Imprese were "personal
devices embodying the hopes and aspirations in
general philosophical terms of a particular knight or
lady.21 in her portraits Elizabeth I often had a
small phoenix jewel at her breast, symbolizing the
renewal ojf her kingdom. The Young Man Surrounded by
Flames portrayed by Hilliard literally burned with
love, holding a locket enclosing his lady's miniature
as proof of his fealty. But did his maid also burn
with love? While the limning keeps its tantalizing
secret, it is obvious the symbols of Hilliard's
limnings were multilayered in meaning, and were
distinct icons of a particular individual.
i Whereas the medieval illumination usually
told a'biblical story, the miniature's tale was for
the most part of a purely secular personal appearance
or life event. Hilliard's Armada Jewel given by
Elizabeth I to Francis Drake in 1589, and his
Coronation portrait of her (1569) were essentially
commemorative art. In fact, besides Hilliard's
successor Issac Oliver's later limning of Christ the
Redeemerj(1611), there were no extant religious
miniatures commissioned from Hilliard or Oliver. Some
lesser personages such as Sir Henry Uncton actually
had postmortem commemorative portraits that portrayed
successive life scenes such as birth, knighting, and
a deathbejd and funeral scene complete with tiny
though recognizable mourners. And, some courtiers
such as the Earl of Essex had a series of portraits
done to personally observe their physical aging.
Hilliard's miniatures thus implied eminently
secular values, which included conscious depiction of
the subject's status. Although the work of Holbein
and Levina Teerlinc were confined to royal
portrayals, the faces of the upper gentry appeared on
many Hilliard portraits. Hilliard was had a monopoly
on the production of Elizabeth I's image, but he was
; , j
not on thje royal payroll until four years before his
death,'whjen he was made James I's official court
miniaturist. He had to make a living, and a good
commission made his work accessible to the merchant
or member of the gentry class.
' The upper gentry class was generally
prospering in the sixteenth century, buying up most
of thej monastic lands made available by the
Dissolution, and the merchants began the formation of
joint-stdck companies which made some suddenly
wealthy. The Tudor class structure was far more
fluid ,tha!n generalizations would imply, with much
depending i upon individual circumstances, but the
middle classes were creating new wealth. So, by the
i 1570's; Hi lliard's limnings portrayed a broad spectrum
of the, ar istocracy and gentry and by 1600, he was
painting citizen's wives.22 it seemed Elizabeth's
) parsimony allowed a series of representations of a
class which otherwise would have been obscured by
time; jthe "democratization of the miniature" resulted
in it being a "true mirror of the Tudor Age."23
But how true of a mirror was it? The
unbending brocade and ribboning, elaborate coiffure.
stiff lacje ruff, and the patterned jewels as
conscious depictions of the subject's status were
highly accurate. "When Hilliard painted the Earl of
. i. J .
Cumberland in his tournament armor, that armor must
have been sent to the studio for it still survives,
proving H Llliard's accuracy in depicting it."24 go
the costume portrayed in the Hilliard miniature
actually existed. But the decorative surface of
costumes|and jewels sometimes overwhelmed the pale
impassive faces they enclosed. And sometimes the
faces were deceptively beautiful.
But that was precisely the point. The
swagger of some of the miniatures was due to the
wishes of the sitter. For example, Elizabeth I's
decision|to remain forever youthful in her public
presentation meant that, while the ornate
encrustation of her dress grew increasingly lavish at
Hilliard's hand, the face became a bland mask with no
truth in it. As Salamon stated, "Hilliard did not so
much bow to commandas turn his Queen into a jewel,
a hard and polished, many-faceted image of wealth and
| Elizabeth was transformed into an icon, a
miniature image that could be utilized as an
instrument of monarchical propaganda. It was
important! that the Queen did not age, for she was the
end of; tlje Tudor line, and England had to present to
the world that the succession was stable, embodied in
their eternal Gloriana, the "Virgin Queen." For the
reign was not stable; Elizabeth's lack of an heir
meant that the throne was threatened with Catholic
aims, notably by Mary Queen of Scots.
Protestant England was also in conflict with Catholic
powers, engaged in a long and mostly cold war with
Spain. ^.1though Mary was executed in 1587, and the
Spanish Armada was defeated in 1588, the remaining
thirteen|years of Elizabeth's reign continued to be
anxious, with her last favorite, the Earl of Essex,
executed!for a treasonous rebellion in 1601.
The propagandized cult of Elizabeth was thus
a way ofjmaking the best out of a bad situation.
Elizabeth took her father's title of "Defender of the
Faith,"26 to emphasize her defense of Protestantism.
Elizabeth was celebrated as the Star of Britain in a
Hilliard locket and miniature, and in the Armada
jewel, is a "most royall queene or empresse," as well
as thÂ£ Governor of the Church. The portrayal of
Noah's', Ark on the reverse was the "symbol of the
Church which Elizabeth is praised in the motto for
having guided safely through stormy waters."27 But
the limnijng within also idealized Elizabeth as that
"Greatest! Gloriana . that greatest Glorious
Queene;," jwhich was further elaborated by her symbol
of the Tddor rose on the locket lid.28
For Elizabeth was also the unattainable
"Virgin Queen," and the center of an elaborate system
of court chivalry that rivaled the courtly love
decorum of the Middle Ages. Fetes, masques, and
tournaments were held each year on the anniversary of
Elizabeth's accession, November 17.29 At the
Accession Day Tournament of 1590, a temple of the
Vestal Virgins was erected within the tiltyard of
Certain of the virgins gave Elizabeth gifts
from the altar, while before the temple stood a
pillar bearing a crown embraced by Elizabeth1s
symbol!, the eglantine tree. On this hung a
Latinjprayer, ecstatic in its Eliza worship.20
j Thje limning played an important role in such
courtly spiectacles, representing a "platonized vision
of the loyed one, the contemplation of whose external
image was Jthe beginning of a ladder of devotional
ascent."31 These platonized visions often indulged
in Petrarchan imagery, one Hilliard sitter amid a
seastorm, !the rock and ship testifying to his
constancyJ As mentioned, the unknown Elizabethan
s faith brought suffering, and many of
subjects asked and were depicted against
color of constancy. The Queen would give
a locket with limning enclosed to those who were
especially! in favor, and the recipients would
reciprocate in kind? an "acknowledged way of
the [monarch's] favor was to present him
[or heir] y/ith a miniature. "32
The revival of chivalry also served more
practical purposes. As Strong mentioned, "In a
society split by the religious divisions of Catholic,
Anglican and Puritan, the ritual of chivalry cut
right across the religious barriers."33 Although
Elizabeth's Act of Uniformity (1558) attempted to
bring all. members into the fold of the English
Church, strict Catholics and reforming Puritans were
not contented. The famous "via media," or middle way
of theiElizabethan Religious Settlement was a way to
keep a lid bn a boiling pot of religious controversy,
but nonetheless religious rebellions did occur.
; The development of a cult surrounding
Elizabeth with neo-medieval decorum and miniature
love tokens was thus a cult of diplomacy designed to
remind;the English people of their common heritage,
ratherjthan their religious divisiveness. The
medieval trappings were also a response to the
wholesale destruction of English medieval religious
art under the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI.
! 5 ,
However, the heritage of England's Middle Ages could
in thejframework of courtly love be safely secular.
offending! few. The cult of Elizabeth focused
devotion to a secular monarch, rather than to
differences in theology that were causing civil war'
. : i
m other European nations. As Strong stated:
The escalating ceremonial surrounding . .
kingship actually stemmed from the adaptation to
a secular purpose of a format that was in origin
religious. ... By 1600 ... in Protestant
countries, the liturgy of state ruthlessly
replaced that of the medieval church; for the
new reformed churches had abolished religious
images and ceremonial.34
In fact, the mentioned Accession Day of Elizabeth was
promulgated as an official holy day of the
Established Church, its festivities replacing those
of theiold medieval saints' days.35 The Cult of
Elizabeth,, with its chivalrous trappings and
attendant festivals was an instrument of her rule,
! I . .
with enough historical and religious overtones to
. ; i
insure devotion and national loyalty.
It seemed Elizabeth anticipated and put into
practical use McLuhan's thesis: when the "technology
of a time is powerfully thrusting in one direction,
wisdom ,:may well call for a countervailing thrust. "36
The medieval Gothicism of the trappings of costume,
etiquette, and limnings was the "countervailing
thrust': to the implications of print media and the
secular world. It was a strategy similar to the
incorporation of pagan rituals into Christianity to
ease the impact of conversion.
1 Bor the Henrician Reformation's breach with
Rome, and his declaration of himself as head of
church and state was a drastic move. But Elizabeth
also had ito contend with the fact she was female. A
female^ ru'ler, even to staunch Protestants such as
John Kinoxj, was a "monstrous regiment," a disruption
of the order of the Great Chain of Being, a portent
of possibjle war. By promoting herself as the
unattainable Virgin Queen, object of courtly love, it
was possible Elizabeth indirectly identified herself
with the suit of the Virgin Mary. Her person and her
portraits soon had the "further weight of religious
importt as they replaced the lost medieval art of the
Virgin; anci saints and offered icons of devotion."37
Thanks .in part to Hilliard and his limnings,
Elizabeth was seen as a suitable spiritual and
secular ruler, even if she was female.
: Elizabeth, as eternal spiritual monarch had
to remain youthful in her miniature icons. Except
for two larger oils, the Armada (1588) and the
Ditchley portrait by Gheerhardts (1592), there were
no official portraits of her in old age. Elizabeth's
effort to counter the swiftness of time's passing was
also continually expressed in her era's philosophy.
Time became a series of discrete units to measured
with the advent of the mechanical clock, and the
the universe became the metaphor of "God's
mechanism" with the Newtonian synthesis.
As Marshall McLuhan stated:
I Time, as hacked into uniform successive bits
by clock and print together, became a major theme
of I the Renaissance neurosis, inseparable from the
new cult of precise measurement in the
As Shakespeare's sonnets rhapsodized about the
ability of a printed literary work to confer
immortality on its subject and author, Elizabethans
commissioned Hilliard to limn portraits so that they
would be remembered.
The recording of human likeness was, as
mentionedJ connected with social rank. But it was
also connected with fame. As Hilliard wished to be
remembered for his artistry, Elizabeth's courtiers
saw limnings not only as family heirlooms for their
descendants, but as records for posterity. Their
portrait costumes told the viewer they were important
people, tile imprese or personal symbols stressed
their individuality, and the commissioning of the
portrait was made, as the Elizabethan portraitist
Segar stalted, "to retaine in memory, the excellent
Actiorts cjf such men, as had lived honourably, and
Fame was connected with family and the
cult, resulting in an Elizabethan
genealogical mania. This mania was reflected in
the hectic building of tombs and effigies in
parish churches, in the use of ancestral heraldry
(often invented) in profusion in interior
decorjations and in the advent of published family
Elizabeth herself had a thirty-yard genealogical
roll, depicting England's kings from the creation to
Queen Elijzabeth, linearly marching towards the
present rjeign.41 Elizabeth's destiny, at least
genealogically, was ordered in time, and her
courtiers wished no less for themselves.
The Elizabethan portrait thus served as a
time markjer, a personal symbol, and a quest for fame.
The fixed! chronology of the new linearity in
Renaissance resulted in the devotion of an genre
devoted to portraying people in a fixed time and
place.| The conception of time was moving from an
agrarian cycle of the seasons, to an idea of linear,
forward progress that could be documented and
measured. One Thomas Whythorne, a gentleman's son
and music teacher recorded his motives for sitting
for a jportrait. His first portrait was as part of an
advertisement of his services as a music teacher, but
his second portrait was done a year later in 1550
after he lhad recovered from an attack of the ague.
Whythorne wished "to see how [he] was changed . .
since'[the time I made the other picture of mine. "42
i ! . .
On the occasion of his third portrait, he wrote:
divers do cause their [portraits] to be made
td see how time doth alter them from time to
time,| so thereby they may consider with
themselves how they ought to alter their
Accurately-represented past appearance was important?
the portrait served as a general and personal
document lof history.
l!. Paul Lomazzo, A Tracte Containing the
Artes, of|Curious Paintings, trans. Richard Haydocke
(London: jn.p., 1598), 52 .
2. Nicholas Hilliard, Nicholas Hilliard's
Art of Lilmning, with a Foreword by Sir John Pope-
Hennesse^, a Transcription by Arthur Kinney, and a
Commentary and Apparatus "The Art of Nicholas
Hilli^rd'i by Linda Bradley Salamon (Boston:
Northeastern University Press, 1983), 67-69.
3. William Shakespeare, "Sonnet XVIII," in
The Literature of Renaissance England, Oxford
Anthology of English Literature Series, ed. John
Hollander and Frank Kermode (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1973), 426.
j 4. Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media:
The Extensions of Man (New York: New American
Library, J1964), 161-62.
5. Hilliard, 18.
8. Ibid., 16.
' 9. Arthur Kinney, Transcription to Nicholas
Hilliardjs Art of Limning, 6.
I'O. Linda Bradley Salamon, Commentary and
Apparatus to Nicholas Hilliard's Art of Limning, 111. 11
11. Umberto Eco, Art and Beauty in the
Middle; Ag!es, trans. Hugh Bredin, 3d ed. (New Haven:
Yale University Press, 1986), 114.
12. Ibid., 98.
13. Ibid., 115.
15. Sir Philip Sidney, An Apology for
Poesy. 1595y (New Yorks Bobbs-Merrill Publishers,
16. Roy Strong, "The Tudor Miniature:
Mirror ;Of jan Age," chap, in Artists of the Tudor
Court: The Portrait Miniature Rediscovered 1520-1620
(London: !Victoria and Albert Museum, 1983), W.
1^. Roy Strong, The English Icon (New Haven:
Yale University Press, 1969), 97
18* Strong, The English Icon, 2.
;; 19. Roger Lockyer, Tudor and Stuart Britain
1471-1714J 2d ed. (New York: St. Martin's Press,
Inc., 1985), 94.
20. Roy Strong, "Edward VI and the Pope,"
Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 23
21. Strong, The English Icon, 30.
22. Strong, Artists of the Tudor Court, 12.
!, 24. Ibid.
| 25. Salamon, Commentary and Apparatus to
Nicholas Hilliard's Art of Limning, 81.
: 26. Lockyer mentioned in Tudor and Stuart
Britain, (31-32) that Henry VIII originally won this
title from Pope Leo X in 1524 for wiring a treatise
that defended the seven sacraments against Luther's
work Oil the Babylonian Captivity of the Church. It
is a tribute to Elizabeth5s political skill that she
could utilize the originally Catholic title of fidei
defensor for Protestant ends.
27. Salamon, Commentary and Apparatus to
Nicholas Hilliard's Art of Limning, 81.
28. Edmund Spenser, The Fairie Queen in The
Literature of Renaissance England, Oxford Anthology
of English Literature Series, ed. John Hollander and
Frank kermode (New Yorks Oxford University Press,
1973), Book I, stanza 3, lines 2-3, 172.
29. Roy Strong, Splendor at Courts
Renaissance Spectacle and the Theatre of Power
(Bostons tt_-uj *- C-C1' - 1 r*'7
Houghton Mifflin Company,1973),45.
30. Roy Strong, Art and Powers Renaissance
Festivals]1450-1650 (Berkeleys University of
California Press, 1984, 52.
31. Strong, Artists of the Tudor Court, 13.
33. Strong, Art and Power , 122.
34. | Ibid., 19.
i 35. Idid.
36. McLuhan, 75.
37. Elizabeth W. Pomeroy, Reading the
Portraits]of Queen Elizabeth I (New Yorks Archon
Books, 11989), 61.
38. McLuhan, 139.
39. William Segar, Honor Military and Civill
(Londons jn.p., 1602), 254-55, quoted in Strong,
English Icon, 29.
,40. Strong, The English Icon, 29.
41. Carolly Erickson, The First Elizabeth
(New Yorks Summit Books, 1983), 251.
42. Thomas Whythorne, The Autobiography of
Thomas Whythorne, ed. J. Osborne (Oxfords Oxford
University Press, 1961), 20.
THE DECLINE OF LIMNING: THE RISE OF MODERN
I The miniature portrait as a document of
history] revealed much about the societal, artistic,
religious,] and philosophical trends and traits of the
Elizabethan world. The printing explosion of
Renaissance England resulted in a highly visual model
of perception that bridged the medieval and modern
the unique art form of the limning,
Nicholas Hilliard incorporated ideas of medieval
aesthetics, but also stressed the quest for
individual fame which was characteristic of the
Renaissance. The English Reformation and destruction
of English medieval art in Henry VIII's reign also
contributed to the ''medievalism" of the miniature; an
was made to regain a lost artistic heritage.
At the same time, the religious controversy led to an
of subject painting, and an emphasis on
t. The portrait was a natural choice, and
the miniature portrait's small size represented the
psycholbgi]cal caution of innovation.
Hpwever, the innovation of the miniature had
a discrete and limited life span. Hilliard's
predecessors Holbein and Levina Teerlinc had painted
members of the immediate royal family. However, ten
years after Hilliard began his craft, limnings were
not only readily ordered by members of the royal
house, such as Elizabeth I, but were given as gifts
of royal |favor to such personages as Francis Drake.
From the 1570's, a broader range of aristocracy was
represented, and by 1600, gentry portraits were
commonL Hilliard's competitor, Issac Oliver, also
portrayed prosperous merchants in the traditional
manner, painting on vellum affixed to pasteboard.
However, after Hilliard and Oliver's tenure, there
was a move towards painting on ivory, the flat
decorative surface was replaced by realistic
perspective and shadow, and the gilt and jeweled work
had disappeared. Miniatures were still placed in
lockets, but also were prominently displayed in
connoisseur's cabinets, their insular privacy
diluted. Even though miniature painting continued
for four Tiundred years after Hilliard, his particular
techniques had a definite tenure of existence,
ranging from 1572 (first recorded Hilliard limning of
Elizabeth) to 1619 (Hilliard's death; Oliver died in
The genre of miniatures was also being
replaced in the mid-seventeenth-century by Van Dyck's
large-scale oil portraits that embraced Italianate
aesthetic ideals. Charles I, the son of James I,
made Anthony Van Dyck chief painter to the King in
1632. Van Dyck's brilliant images of Charles and his
court were directly influenced by Rubens, who was his
mentoriin Antwerp. However, his career as a painter
of aristocracy began in Genoa in 1621, and he carried
Italian conventions of portraiture back to England.
Van Dyck's image of the court of Charles I as "an
image of elegant courtiers tinged with melancholy,
posed gracefully in a mellow landscape," as stated by
Bragg,;"determined the course of English portraiture
for the next 200 years."! Roy Strong commented that
"apart from the miniatures of Nicholas Hilliard and
Issac Oliver, [the Elizabethan Age] was and will
never be considered a great age of English
painting."2 it was little wonder the great talent
of Van Dyke dazzled the Stuart court, and caused
Hilliard's little jewels to be overlooked, and their
Gloriana image to be considered hopelessly outdated
The Hilliard miniature seemingly was too
well-adapted to its time, too representative of its
age to survive as a prominent genre. As long as the
miniature served a dual role of jewelry and art, its
aesthetic; prestige would be hampered. Jewelry and
goldsmitliing implied a medieval "servile art," and
painting did not come into its own until the end of
Hilliard's life. Perhaps this was why miniatures
' i |
painted after Hilliard and Oliver were seen more as
paintings to be placed in cabinets, for the courtly
love games and tokens of Gloriana's reign were out of
Curing Elizabeth's reign, and particularly in
the 1570's, the exquisite, filigree-like nature of
Hilliard's works led to royal patronage and favor.
His limnijngs were the perfect love tokens, and as
Finste.n mentioned, evolved from the practice of
wearing reliquary lockets. In the fourteenth and
fifteenth century, relics were worn as talismans of
good ljuckj, and "belief in the talismanic effects of
the relic also extended to the precious metals and
stones .. .jused to decorate and house them."3 During
Reforirtatijon times, the saint's portrait was simply
replaced by that of a loved one, or of a monarch.
The limning served as a secular relic, and expressed
political faith as well as love. Having a miniature
as a sign of royal favor was certainly advantageous
and prestigious. The limning locket was also an
Elizabethan fashion statement, as can be seen from
Every kind of fashionable trinket hawked
Elizabeth bought . jeweled watches made like
flowers or reliquaries, brooches, . and pins.
She! wore proudly all the great gemstones her
had brought into his jewel house when
the| monasteries surrendered their wealth.4
The courtiers did as Elizabeth did, festooning
with love tassels, ribbons, and miniatures
because;it indirectly gave them a piece of her power.
|But as the court changed rulers, its ideas of
power and allegiance also changed. The miniaturist
could simply not adapt. As Finsten stated with
regard to the work of Oliver:
1 Those very qualities which made Oliver1s
mature! style so desirable in the Stuart court
its;sophistication, artificiality, its manual and
intellectual brilliancewere ultimately self-
defeating. . His attempts ... to take the
style in a new direction by adapting progressive.
Baroque currents were largely unsuccessful.5
Much the same could said of Hilliard, except his
: I- .
"archaic" style led to fewer and fewer commissions,
until James I favored him with a royal monopoly in
the last |years of his life after Oliver had died.
Patrons now wanted large portraits as an outward
display cf their power and mighty the miniature was
simply not "observable" enough to satisfy changing
court tastes. For over thirty years, "Hilliard
satisfied! Elizabeth's fancy for glamorous
presentation in a uniquely English version of the
Renaissance cult of likenesses intended to display
power and taste." When the tastes changed, the
Hilliard miniature was left behind.
The limning by its very price was also
prevented from trickling down to the lower classes
after jit no longer held interest for the nobility. A
miniature was a costly thing to commission, with
Hilliard'Â£ miniatures generally going for three
pounds, and Oliver's fee ranging from five pounds to
ten pound's depending on size.^ And, it was also
uming to sit for one. The first sitting
would jtake from two to four hours to delineate the
basic shape of the features, the second sitting from
six tOi eight hours, m which the features were made
more detailed, and the costume was started. The
final sitting would last for two or three
ana was devoted to deepening shadows. The
sitter would then have to wait for the limner to gild
and set the portrait into a handmade locket.8 in
since it was usually such an intensely
personal object, it could not be sold or traded
except for the gold and jewels that surrounded it.
The miniature was thus not something that
could be tried on the installment plan; it was a
precious,jpersonal luxury object that was simply not
accessible to those without the means. Hilliard's
penury forced him to paint citizen's wives, but
Oliver's steady commissions made him an artist of the
court;; Olivers images reflected a smaller segment
of society than Hilliard's, for most of the wives he
painted were members of the nobility.
It seemed that the miniatures of Hilliard
were innovations peculiarly well-adapted to the
tastes of|a particular age, their use as jewelry and
art suiting the narcissistic Elizabethan and Jacobean
court. But, as the years passed, secular art became
something to be celebrated and not hidden away in
lockets and jewelry boxes. The death of Elizabeth
left a generation of courtiers without a Gloriana to
pay homage to in rituals of courtly love, and the
continuity of the Stuart line made a royal cult
seemingly unnecessary. With heirs, the pretenders to
the throne did not pose as much of a threat, and the
public manifestations of personal devotion in the
Accession Day celebrations were thus transformed
into masques only for the enjoyment of the court.
Elizabeth-had a marriage with her people, and her
Scottish successor James insisted on the divine right
| The ascent of the Stuart line also meant the
ascent!of|Catholicism in the confines of the court.
Though|most of the population was Protestant, the
Stuartjkings held mass in private, and thus had no
qualmsjabout importing the Catholic Italy's
philosophical and aesthetic ideas. The neo-
medievalism of the art of insular Elizabethan England
was replaced by the beauties of Inigo Jones and Van
Dyck in 1632? perspective and shadow penetrated the
English realm and held their own. The attendant
; I i
population was also increasingly Puritan, and
something as ostentatious as a Hilliard miniature
would simply not be tolerated among their class.
"By the eighteenth century, the whole aesthetic of
Elizabethan art was so utterly foreign that a
daughter of George III on seeing a Hilliard miniature
could ohlyi exclaim in horror, 'Christ, what a
! | ,
The decline and relative obscurity of the
Hilliard miniature was simply due to the fact that it
was too|well-adapted to the confines of a particular
age. It was an art form unique as its patron
Elizabeth, and as brilliant as the flowering of the
English'Renaissance. The miniature's medieval origins
of technique, its ties to the English Reformation m
its choice,of secular subject, and its unique role in
Tudor and Jacobean court ritual not only made it an
important historical document, but also illustrated
the interdependence of art and history, plastic and
print media, religion and secular concerns. As
jewelry and realistic portrait, token of love and
personal icon, the microcosm of the
miniature expressed the macrocosm of the Elizabethan
was a precious and transitory
representative of a precious and transitory age.
! 1. Melvyn Bragg, Great Artists: A Treasury
of Paintings by the Masteri (New York: Exeter Books,
. 2.j Roy Strong, The English Icon (New Haven:
Yale University Press, 1969), 3~!
Jill Finsten, "Issac Oliver: Art at the
Elizabeth I and James I" (Ph.D. diss..
Harvard University, 1979), 8.
4. Carolly Erickson, The First Elizabeth
(New York* Summit Books, 1983J7 231.
" 5.: Finsten, 139.
6.! Linda Bradley Salamon. Commentary and
Apparatusj "The Art of Nicholas Hilliard" to Nicholas
Hilliayd's Art of Limning by Nicholas Hilliard
Northeastern University Press, 1983), 73.
Roy Strong, Artists of the Tudor Court:
The Portrait Miniature Rediscovered 1520-1620
(London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1983), 25-26.
; 9. Strong, The English Icon, 57.
Stephen. The Discoveries and History of
the Gold Mynes in Scotland. London: n.p.f 1619,
i A jprimary source document concerning
Hilliard's failed gold mining expedition.
Seems a quite reliable source.
Erna. Nicholas Hilliard. London: Thames
and Hudson, 1961.
One of the first biographies of Hilliard.
Auerbach makes some assumptions, particularly
about iwhere the Hilliard family lived in the
1580's that were corrected by Mary Edmond's later
work. Otherwise, a well-done piece.
Blum, J,ohri M., Edmund S. Morgan, Willie Lee Rose,
Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., Kenneth M. Stampp,
and! C. Vann Woodward, eds. The National
Experience: A History of the United States. 4th
ed.; New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.,
Aljthough this work was used primarily for its
discussion of McLuhan's impact on American
societjy, it is an excellent general text of
United States history. There is a good balance
between social, diplomatic, political, and
economic history, and the writing is clear.
Bonaventurle, Saint. Opera Omnia. Florence: n.p.,
1902. I Quoted in Umberto Eco. Art and Beauty in
the Middle Ages. 95, n. 16. New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1986.
Botticelli, Sandro. The Birth of Venus. Tempera on
canvass with gilt. 1482. Galleria degli Uffizi,
Florence. As reproduced in Helen Gardner. Art
Through the Ages. Edited by Horst de la Croix
and Richard Tansey. 8th ed. New York: Harcourt
Bracej Jovanovich, Publishers, 1986, plate 16-60.
Bragg,; Melvyn. Great Artists: A Treasury of
Paintings by the Masters. New York: Exeter
| A good introductory art history survey, with
excellent color plates and illustrations.
Joseph. The Power of Myth, with Bill
. Edited by Betty Sue Flowers. New York:
The companion volume to the much-acclaimed
PBS series. The premier structuralist scholar of
mythology discusses his many insights with
journalist Bill Moyers. Campbell's comments
about|the differences between the oral and
written word are particularly helpful.
The Darnley Portrait. Oil on wood. 1575. National
Portrait Gallery, London. As reproduced in
Elizabeth Pomeroy, Reading the Portraits of
Queen!Elizabeth I Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books,
1989.1 Plate 3.
; An example of a "propaganda portrait,"
showing a never-aging Elizabeth.
Donne, John. John Donne: The Satires, Epigrams, and
Verse|Letters. Edited by W. Milgate. London:
Oxford University Press, 1967.
i a!well-edited collection of some of Donne's
lesser-known works. Donne exhibited a
fascination with epigrams and word-puzzles
characteristic of his era.
Eco, Umberto. Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages.
Translated by Hugh Bredin. 3d ed. New Haven:
Yale University Press, 1986.
1 a| concise, lucid explanation of medieval
aesthetics that presents ideas that would take
much reading to acquire. Eco's comments on the
medieval idea of craftsmanship vs. art are
Edmond, Mary. Hilliard and Oliver: The Lives and
Works|of Two Great Miniaturists. London: Robert
The standard biography of Hilliard and his
successor. Though some of the speculations about
the iconography of Hilliard's limnings are a bit
questionable, Edmond for the most part displays
an empathy for both artists, and scrupulously
researches her subjects.
Erickson,ICarolly. The First Elizabeth. New York:
Summit Books, 1983.
One of the best biographies of Elizabeth
extant. Erickson has a lively writing style and
an ability to convey the personality of a
historical figure. With portraits of all Tudor
Finsten, Jill. "Issac Oliver: Art at the Courts of
Elizabeth I and James I." Ph.D. diss., Harvard
An excellent research study on Hilliard's
successor with many limning illustrations. An
interesting chapter concerning the baroque,
influences on limning.
Gardner, Helen. Art Through the Ages. Edited by
Hprstide la Croix and Richard Tansey. 8th ed.
New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers,
, The standard art history reference, riched
supplemented with color plates and illustrations.
Gardner's commentary remains timely, and the
glossary is most helpful.
Hajnal, Istvan. L1Enseignment de 11ecriture aux
uriiversites medievales, Tmportance of
Writing to Medieval Universities]. 2d ed.
Budapest: Academica Scientiarum Hungarica
Budagestini, 1959. Quoted in Marshall McLuhan.
Ttje Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic
Main, 196-97, n. 102. Toronto: University of
Toronto Press, 1962; New York: Macmillan, 1968.
Herbert, George. "Easter Wings." In The Literature
of Renaissance England. Oxford Anthology of
English Literature Series, ed. John Hollander and
Frank Kermode. New York: Oxford University
I An example of an Jacobean "shape poem,"
writtjen by a Catholic courtier. The love for
wdrd jpuzzles is evident in many of Herbert's
anagrams, included in a standard, well-edited
Hilliard,; Nicholas, London, to Robert Cecil, London,
November 1604. Place of transcript not given.
Quoteld in Auerbach. 37, n. 123.
__________________. Nicholas Hilliard's Art of
Limning! With a Foreword by John Pope-Hennessey,
an introduction by Arthur Kinney, and a Chapter
by Lilnda Salamon. Boston: Northeastern
Un'ivejrsity Press, 1983.
The sourcebook for Hilliard's techniques,
writtlen by the master himself. The forward by
Henesjsey, an expert on Renaissance portraiture,
and the concluding chapter by Salamon are
ex|celllent resources. Included are color plates
of some of the more important of Hilliard's works
ih anj beautifully-published work.
Huizinga, J. The Waning of the Middle Ages. New
York: Doubleday, 1954. i
i A fascinating and beautifully-crafted piece
concerning medieval culture immediately before
the Renaissance. Excellent discussions of
cojurtjly love, chivalry, and the medieval's love
for pageantry and ceremony within the framework
of; the Christian Church.
Ivins,jwilliam. Prints and Visual Communication.
London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1953.
A|pre-McLuhan attempt to show how print
shaped societies from the Romans, to the
Medievals and modern man. The work is mostly
confined to the effect of print on the visual
arts,,but is well-done nonetheless.
Januszczalc, Waldemar. Techniques of the World' s
Great|Painters. Secaucus, N.J.: Chartwell
, Though it was gratifying to see Hilliard
recognized as a "great painter," by Januszczak,
his explication of Hilliard's techniques was
inaccurate. Januszczak never mentioned the use
of vellum by the miniaturist, and he identified
The Elizabethan Gentleman as painted on woodl
Kepes,: Gregory. The Language of Vision. Chicago:
Paul Theobald, 1939
Lockyer, Roger. Tudor and Stuart Britain 1471-1714.
2d edi New York: St. Martin's Press, Inc.,
A well-written summary of the history of the
Tudor and Stuart monarchies. Lockyer's
explanation of English law in this period is
Lomazzo, Paul. A Tracte Containing the Artes of
Curious Paintings. Translated by Richard
Haydocke. London: n.p., 1598.
; An influential aesthetics tract, much quoted
by Hilliard and other Elizabethan artists.
Lovejoy, Arthur. The Great Chain of Being: A Study
of:the History of an Idea. Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 1936.
| Aj scholarly treatise that chronologically
traces the philosophy of the 'Chain' from Plato
to;the nineteenth century. Well-researched,
though the prose is a bit ponderous. Tillyard's
work, I as described below would seem a better bet
for an understanding of the Elizabethan chain of
McLuhan, Marshall. The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making
of'Typographic Man. Toronto: University of
Toronto Press, 1962; New York: Macmillan, 1968.
; A* 1series of short essays on various media
forms'j and their societal impact. Thought-
provoking and creative, but not supported by
i I______. Understanding Media: The
Extensions of Man. New York: New American
seminal work that illustrates the cultural
implications of communications media. McLuhan's
classification of media, his explanation of the
electronic age, and his ideas of a "global
village," made the work an academic sensation.
Because the work has a more philosophical, rather
than quantitative basis, it has lost its status
in|the communications field. However, it still
remains a source of fascinating ideas.
Melville, Sir James. Memoirs of Sir James Melville
ofjHalhill 1535-1617. Edited by A. Francis
Stewart. New York: n.p., 1930.
; An interesting and fairly reliable primary
source document of an Elizabethan courtier who
hacl regular conversations with Elizabeth. Here
one reads about Elizabeth's opinions about the
beauty of Mary Queen of Scots, her love of
dancing, and her skill at the virginals.
Pomeroy, Elizabeth W. Reading the Portraits of Queen
Elizabeth I. New York: Archon Books, 1989.
j Ajstructuralist scholar's interpretation of
the formal and limned portraits of Elizabeth.
Pomeroy's discussion of Hilliard's Elizabeth
Playing a Lute is particularly insightful with
regards to iconography.
Pope-Hennessey, John. The Portrait in the
Renaissance. Washington, D.C.: Pantheon Books,
, | A| classic work written by a respected art
historian. Although the debate rages concerning
the iconography of Hilliard's The Elizabethan
Gentleman, Pope Henessey's identification of him
in this work as a generic love-struck courtier
seems I likely.
Roston, Murray. Renaissance Perspective in
Literature and the Visual Arts. Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1987.
| A scholarly overview of Renaissance
aesthetics with an interesting chapter comparing
medieval and Shakespearean theatre.
Segar, jWilliam. Honor Military and Civill. London:
n.p.,;1602, 254-55. Quoted in Roy Strong. The
English Icon, 29. New Haven: Yale University
Shakespeare, William. "Sonnet XVIII." In The
Literature of Renaissance England. Oxford
Anthology of English Literature Series, ed. John
Hollander and Frank Kermode. New York: Oxford
University Press, 1973.
Sidney; Sir Philip. An Apology for Poesy. 1595. New
York: Bobbs-Merrill Publishers, 1970.
A classic rhetorical defense for poetry by a
Renaissance courtier. It urges the rise of
artists from the status of medieval craftsmen to
Spenser* Edmund. The Fairie Queen. In The Literature
of! ^Renaissance England. Oxford Anthology of
English Literature Series, ed. John Hollander and
New York: Oxford University
Strong,| Roy. Art and Power; Renaissance Festivals
1450-1650. Berkeley; University of California
________. Artists of the Tudor Court; The
Portrait Miniature Rediscovered 1520-1620.
London: Victoria and A11~e~-t- Museum, 1983.
The Cult of Elizabeth: Elizabethan
Portraiture and Pageantry.
London: Thames and
________. "Edward VI and the Pope." Journal of
the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 23 (I960)s
The English Icon. New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1969.
Splendor at Court: Renaissance
Spectacle and the Theatre of Power.
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1973.
i Strong is the premier art historian of
Elizabethan miniature painting and pageantry.
His works are supplemented by a visual feast of
color|illustrations, and clear writing. He was
one of the first scholars to make connections
between the Reformation and the decline of
religious art in sixteenth-century England.
E.M.W. The Elizabethan World Picture. New
brief, well-written work that provides an
excellent explanation of the concept of the
Elizabethan Great Chain of Being. Tillyard uses
well-chosen excerpts from philosophy and
literature of the era to prove his point.
Wythorne, jThomas. The Autobiography of Thomas
Wythor'ne. Edited by J. Osborne. Oxfords Oxford
University Press, 1961.
A fascinating work concerning a member of the
lesser nobility who made his living as a music
teacher. Wythorne's revealed motivations towards
haying his portrait painted were especially useful.