Nicholas Hilliard was born in
Exeter in 1547 and was the first notable English born painter of portrait
miniatures. Following his father’s profession, he trained as a goldsmith and
began painting miniatures at a very early age, being influenced by the Flemish
illuminators and the engraver Dürer.
By the 1560’s he was the official Portrait Painter and Limner
to the Court of Queen Elizabeth 1. Painting in watercolour on vellum, Hilliard’s
exquisite portraits of the Queen and members of the Court were often set in
beautifully jewelled gold frames. The paintings were highly prized by the Queen.
She gave likenesses of herself to those in high esteem and kept a collection of
treasured portraits of her ‘favourites‘.
Around 1600 Nicholas Hilliard wrote A Treatise Concerning the
Art of Limning, a work of great importance as a history of miniature painting.
He died in January 1619 and is buried in St Martins in the Fields, Westminster.
Some fine examples of his work are to be found at the Victoria and Albert
Museum, London, and in other notable collections.