This fine miniature by the court painter Nicholas Dixon depicts a member of the Stewart family of Killymoon Castle, Northern Ireland. Located about one mile south-east of Cookstown, Country Tyrone, the original Killymoon castle was built in c. 1670 before it was re-designed and built by John Nash in 1803 due to a devastating fire. Irregular in plan and flanked by asymmetrical towers, the castle now stands as a legacy to the influence of the Stewart family.

In August 1673, soon after construction on Killymoon Castle began, Nicholas Dixon succeeded the short tenure held by Richard Gibson (1615-1690), which had followed the long career of Samuel Cooper (1607/8-1672), 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 both style and quality, to the small, distinctive circle of Restoration court miniaturists.

The delicate rendering of the...

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This fine miniature by the court painter Nicholas Dixon depicts a member of the Stewart family of Killymoon Castle, Northern Ireland. Located about one mile south-east of Cookstown, Country Tyrone, the original Killymoon castle was built in c. 1670 before it was re-designed and built by John Nash in 1803 due to a devastating fire. Irregular in plan and flanked by asymmetrical towers, the castle now stands as a legacy to the influence of the Stewart family.

In August 1673, soon after construction on Killymoon Castle began, Nicholas Dixon succeeded the short tenure held by Richard Gibson (1615-1690), which had followed the long career of Samuel Cooper (1607/8-1672), 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 both style and quality, to the small, distinctive circle of Restoration court miniaturists.

The delicate rendering of the sitter’s draped costume exemplifies Dixon’s renown skill in moulding folds and drapery in exquisite detail. The sitter’s white lace underslip rests weightlessly above her blue silk gown, styled with a deep blue brooch and pendant pearl which echoes her string pearl neckless. Whilst Dixon’s hand is here apparent, another distinct indication enables this attribution; tucked behind the hair to the sitter’s right-hand shoulder is a small signature; ‘ND’. Dixon often signed his works ‘ND’, the letters joined together, sometimes followed by the date and often rendered in gold.[1]

[1] L. R. Schidlof, The Miniature in Europe: In the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries (Austria: Akademische Druck, 1964) p.207.

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500 Years of British Art