Nicholas Hilliard

By: Emily Spencer


Nicholas Hilliard was born in Exeter, United Kingdom in 1537. He spent most of his life in his kingdom painting. His father was a goldsmith, and Nicholas was apprenticed to a goldsmith in 1562. For eight years he was taught limning, no one knows who taught him limning (watercolor on vellum). Limning was regarded as the highest form of art. In 1570 he entered the royal service as a miniature painter and goldsmith in Exeter. When he became a freeman of the Goldsmith's Company at age twenty-two, he was already an assured artist and soon he painted his first miniature of the Queen.
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Nicholas painted various paintings. In the 1590's he submitted a crimson curtain, using a technique called "wet-in-wet" to show the transitions of light on draped satin. This was the first surviving example of limning in a painting in 1594. He also painted an image of the Queen which was so important back than. The limnings show her aged face and the jewelled icon on the Queen. Nicholas's self-portrait (Victoria and Albert) was done in 1577 at age thirty. He was constantly in need of money. It wasn't until he got paid a lot from one of his paintings, his payment improved. He remained active until the end of his long life. His patronage with James I didn't inspire him as Elizabeth had done.


Nicholas includes a lot of humanism in his paintings. This is because in his paintings they have emotion and focus's on the individual. In self-portraits you focus on the individual, humanism, and this is what Nicholas does. It could also show his friendship toward the people in his paintings. Since the Queen was his patron it can show his friendship that he had with her. Another ism is secularism. Secularism is big in his paintings because of his picture of the Queen he is showing his support which brings in the aspect of politics. He is painting about current events and focus's on public figures which is exactly what secularism is.
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This is the painting Nicholas Hilliard painted of the Queen. The name of this piece is Queen Elizabeth I. This piece really interests me because Nicholas was only twenty-two years old when he started painting this. The piece was created around 1572. I don't think you can see this painting anywhere today just online and is published in some books. This painting is so interesting because the Queen is painted in such detailed clothing. Nicholas uses his amazing technique with watercolor. It is brightly colored and lit, with magnificent gold and blue background. I love how the piece shows her ruffles on her clothes and the different shades of lighting. The thing she has around her neck has such detailed images. You can tell he worked for so long on this image of the Queen. It shows his loyalty towards his Kingdom and Queen. It also could show the friendship or patronage between them. The ism that really defines this piece is humanism because the entire painting has you focused on the Queen. Just of one person. It also shows some emotion of her smiling a bit. You would see an excerpt of this everywhere online. Here's one page where they give you simple information regarding this painting by Nicholas Hilliard.

Work Cited

"Nicholas Hilliard." Encyclopedia of World Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1998. Biography in Context. Web. 3 Dec. 2015.

"Nicholas Hilliard." International Dictionary of Art and Artists. Gale, 1990. Biography in Context. Web. 3 Dec. 2015.

Queen Elizabeth I 1586-7. Hilliard, Nicholas 1537 (ca.)-1619. In ARTstor [database online]. [cited 3 December 2015]. Available from ARTstor, Inc.

Sir Walter Raleigh. Hillard, Nicholas. In ARTstor [database online]. [cited 3 December 2015]. Available from ARTstor, Inc.