Nicholas Dixon (c.1645 - after 1708)
The degree of characterisation shown in the present portrait is unusual within Dixon's oeuvre...
This portrait miniature by the court artist Nicholas Dixon conveys both the intimacy of the miniature art form and the influence of the court oil painter Sir Peter Lely (1618-80). Despite the sitter being of more advanced years than the young women gliding around the Restoration court, Dixon has portrayed her with the attributes of youth – her hair flows freely over her shoulder, her gown in a state of fashionable déshabillé. The sumptuous nature of the sitter’s gown confirms her status as a wealthy woman, the fine fabric adorned with large gems and ropes of outsize pearls. Probably painted for a husband or lover, the sitter looks directly and confidently at the viewer from heavily lidded eyes. Such a gaze may have been intended for private consumption only and the miniature may have originally been set within a case with a lid.
In August 1673, Nicholas Dixon succeeded the short tenure held by Richard Gibson (1615-90), which had followed the long career of Samuel Cooper (1607/8-72), as king’s limner to Charles II. Despite his obscure origins and apparent intermittent poverty (he is documented as paying the ‘poor rate’ from his London home in the 1670s) he belongs, in style and quality, to the small, distinctive circle of Restoration court miniaturists. The degree of characterisation shown in the present portrait is unusual within his oeuvre, as his painterly style was somewhat constant in his depiction of female beauty. His work in miniature corresponded agreeably with that of Lely, mirroring the languid sensuality conveyed by the oil painter so representative of both noblewomen and mistresses at the court.