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Fig. 1 Henri III of France , by Nicholas Hilliard. here dated c.1576. Watercolour and bodycolour on vellum stuck to playing card, 5 by 3.7 c,. (Djanogly Collection).

Henry III by Nicholas Hilliard Burlington Extract February 2019

Thu Jan 31, 2019

Excerpt taken from ‘An English artist at the Valois court: a portrait of Henri III by Nicholas Hilliard’ By William Aslet, Lucia Burgio, Céline Cachaud, Alan Derbyshire and Emma Rutherford The Burlington Magazine February 2019


‘[…] Far from Hilliard’s time in France having amounted to a disappointment’, in Roy Strong’s words, it was in fact one of the most remarkable periods in his career.’[1] […] The miniature of Henry III [Fig. 1] demonstrates that Hilliard also spent time in close proximity to the King. When sold in 2013, it had no provenance, and no information relating to the history of the work during the almost 450 years between its execution and discovery has come to light. However, the bespoke Renaissance-revival frame in in which it is housed [Fig. 2] – of which no comparable examples are known – suggests that it was once the prized possession of a collector, although the painting’s remarkable state of conservation, with minimal fading, indicates that it was displayed only rarely. The reverse of the frame is marked with a monogram reading ‘PJ’ or ‘JP’,[Fig. 3] which probably relates to the frame-maker. Two square wax seals are affixed on the reverse, but these are so abraded as to be illegible. Henri is shown at bust length with his head turned to the right. He wears a slashed doublet, likely of figured velvet, from which a tiered lace ruff emerges to highlight his face. Beneath the cape slung over his shoulders hangs a necklace of two strings with a number of bunches of pearls and jewelled ornaments, terminating in a pendant, probably the Ordre de Saint-Michel. High on his head he wears a bonnet – properly called a toque à la polonaise – adorned with a jewelled bordure and an aigrette, whose white feathers echo the crisp lace ruff. The inscription is in capital letters, which is rare in Hilliard’s oeuvre, since he generally used cursive lettering. The inscription evidently evokes medallic precedent, and is indeed almost identical to inscriptions that appear on the coinage around this date […]’ To read the full article online for free until 9am Monday 4th February, visit Burlington Online.

[1] R. Strong: The English Renaissance Miniature, London 1983, p.81; in Strong’s opinion, Hilliard’s apparent inability to learn from French modes revealed the ‘limitations of the man’. He describes the journey to France as ‘abortive’, in J. Murdoch, J. Murrell, P. J. Noon and Roy Strong: exh. Cat. The English Miniature, New Haven (Yale Centre for British Art), Toronto (Art Gallery of Ontario) and Fort Worth (Kimbell Art Museum) 1981, p. 54. This view has been revised: ‘it is generally acknowledged that Hillard’s sojourn in France […] was the making of him’, in E. Goldring: Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and the World of Elizabethan Art: Painting and Patronage at the Court of Elizabeth I, New Haven and London 2014, p. 92.
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Fig. 2 Fig. 1 in a Renaissance-revival pierced frame. nineteenth century. Cherry wood, 20.5 by 12.5 cm (Djanogly Collection).

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Fig. 3 Renaissance-revival frame reverse