26 September 2009

Nicholas Hilliard

One of the plot points in Michael Innes's Lord Mullion's Secret involves miniatures by Nicholas Hilliard, a painter or limner at Elizabeth I's court (Hilliard's self portrait left). Although miniatures are small, the word actually derives from the Latin 'minium', meaning red lead. Since red lead was mainly used for illuminated manuscripts and small portable paintings, the word gradually took on the meaning 'small'.

The largest collection of Hilliard miniatures is in London's Victoria and Albert Museum. Every detail in miniatures is significant. Perhaps Hilliard's most famous work is the portrait below of an anonymous young man in a rose garden. For a discussion see this article from the V&A.

The Guardian discusses this Hilliard miniature from the V&A of a young man against a background flames, while The Independent discusses the miniature below, also from the V&A.

Timea Tallian and Alan Derbyshire of the V&A discuss Hilliard's techniques based on experimental reconstructions. Unfortunately, Hilliard's own work, "Treatise on the Arte of Limning", is not online.

The YouTube video below shows a selection of Hilliard's work to the tune of Greensleeves:

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