Nicholas Hilliard

Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, 1565 - 1601. Statesman and courtier (About 1588 - 1590)

About this artwork

This miniature has been the subject of much discussion regarding the identity of the sitter. It is now largely considered to be a portrait of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex. Devereux rose to prominence at the Court of Queen Elizabeth I and by 1588 had succeeded Sir Walter Raleigh as the Queen’s favourite. However, following his unsuccessful effort to crush the rebellious army of the Earl of Tyrone in 1599, which resulted in his removal from office, he attempted to raise a rebellion against Elizabeth’s counsellors. He was tried for treason and executed in 1601. With clear lighting and an elegant line this miniature is an excellent example of Hilliard’s mature work. The bold colouring of ultramarine blue and gold give the piece a rich, courtly appeal.

Nicholas Hilliard

Nicholas Hilliard

Born in Exeter, Hilliard came from a family of miniature painters. His first known miniature was made when he was thirteen years old. Hilliard was apprenticed to Robert Brandon, a London goldsmith and became a freeman of the Goldsmiths' Company in 1569. In addition to painting miniatures, Hilliard also produced a number of full-length portraits. He enjoyed royal patronage and painted Elizabeth I from life in 1572 and 1600. James I also employed Hilliard from 1603, giving him many commissions for miniatures and medals.