Nicholas Hilliard, Queen Elizabeth I, c. 1600
Nicholas Hilliard (c. 1547 – 1619) is recognised as one of the most important miniature painters of all time. He worked in the Court of Queen Elizabeth I and painted many of the leading courtiers. He was one of the few artists allowed to paint the Queen herself.
Known as The Coronation Miniature, this portrait shows Elizabeth at her coronation of 1559. The painting measures just 89 mm high x 56 mm wide and shows the Queen wearing the cloth-of-gold robes of state and her crown, carrying the Orb and Sceptre which are symbols of her authority. A version ‘in large’ hangs in the National Portrait Gallery.
The Portland Collection is known for its superb range of miniature paintings, including this tiny 26mm self-portrait painted by Hilliard when he was just 13 years old. This is believed to be the earliest surviving Hilliard painting.
Other key artists in the collection include Hans Holbein, CF Zincke, and Jean Petitot.
These are intimate objects, often presented as gifts and worn as jewellery. The collection, which includes works by most of the greatest miniaturists who have worked in England from Tudor times onwards, is one of the three outstanding private holdings of miniatures in the country, ranking with those owned by the Queen and the Duke of Buccleuch.
Michael Hall, Treasures of The Portland Collection
The miniature display changes every six months and shows selections from the extensive miniatures collection that are chosen by guest curators. Past displays have been selected by Sir Peter Blake, Karen Hearn, Romilly Saumarez Smith, and JAR.
Top image: Detail, Nicholas Hilliard, Queen Elizabeth I, c. 1600. Available on Bridgeman Images.