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2. Les mots de la miniature: traité, discours et réception

“it seemeth to be the thing itsefe”: Directness and Intimacy in Nicholas Hilliard’s Portrait Miniatures

“it seemeth to be the thing itsefe”: immédiateté et intimité dans les portraits miniatures de Nicholas Hilliard
Christina Faraday

Résumés

La littérature critique récente a souvent associé le portrait miniature à l’expression d’une forme de rapport au privé dans la culture élisabéthaine. Les miniatures de Hilliard en particulier seraient, à la période élisabéthaine, le lieu privilégié de la révélation de l’individu, qu’elles dissimuleraient cependant derrière un emboîtement de pièces, de compartiments ou d’ornements subtils. Les propres mots d’Hilliard, dont le traité rappelle que toute “peinture imite la nature, et la vie en chaque chose », vont à l’encontre de l’analyse qui est faite de son style que l’on considère souvent comme anti-naturaliste et symbolique plutôt que réaliste. Le présent article offre une nouvelle approche de ces questions, et montre que les miniatures, loin d’être le contraire du naturalisme ou l’expression d’un moi privé, sont des plus réalistes et tournées vers la société extérieure.

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Texte intégral

1Miniatures were used rhetorically, to charm and persuade their recipients into particular actions and attitudes, in love, friendship and politics. Their effectiveness in these roles derived from their formal and physical qualities, not least their perceived ability to record sitters in vivid, unmediated ways. Using period texts and the evidence of miniatures themselves, the first part of this paper shows that miniatures were thought to offer a direct, unmediated representation of reality, by virtue of their scale, method of creation, and materials. The second part places the miniature in its social context, showing how its unique qualities made it effective as a rhetorical tool. Finally, I discuss the use of imprese in miniatures, and the qualities of brevity, vividness and intentionally-limited audiences which both media shared. I show that the impresa’s “symbolic” qualities contributed to, rather than detracted from, the miniature’s perceived vividness, and thus its social and persuasive power.

Introduction

  • 1 Patricia Fumerton, Cultural Aesthetics, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1991, p.69.
  • 2 Susan Stewart, On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection, (...)
  • 3 E.g. Jakob Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, transl. S G C Middlemore, Lond (...)
  • 4 Carl Winter, ‘Hilliard and Elizabethan Miniatures’, The Burlington Magazine, 89.532, July 1947, p. (...)

2In recent years the portrait miniature has become a popular means of exploring the idea of privacy in Elizabethan culture. Small, intimate portrayals from life, miniatures have been seen as promising to reveal the “Elizabethan self” while simultaneously concealing it behind layers of rooms, cases and intricate painted ornament.1 This apparent paradox is at the heart of several intriguing theoretical accounts, which posit miniatures as an “experience of interiority”, but one which “forever deferred any final arrival at innermost privacy”.2 Although these accounts are interesting for their critical implications, their emphasis on privacy and interiority reinforces the traditional view of the Renaissance as the birthplace of individuality.3 Furthermore, such accounts tend to focus on the miniatures of Nicholas Hilliard, whose style has been seen as “courtly, almost heraldic” and “unrealistic”, in comparison to his presumed student Isaac Oliver’s “robust, direct and naturalistic” miniatures.4 This characterisation of Hilliard’s style as artificial and self-concealing is based on a retrospective view of English artistic development, and not on the responses of Hilliard’s contemporaries. The present article seeks to re-historicise analysis of Hilliard’s miniatures, and return the debate to the period’s own ideas about privacy, individuality, intimacy and realism.

  • 5 P. Fumerton, op. cit., p.76-78.
  • 6 L. C. Orlin, op. cit., p.10; also p.226;247.

3Patricia Fumerton’s influential account of the miniature as a “secret art” assumes that privacy was desirable in early modern England. She sees miniatures as allowing Elizabethans to retain something of a “private self” in the “open court of artifice”: an opportunity to be “private in public”. For Fumerton, the miniature’s “ornamental” qualities are associated with “impenetrability”, which “at last prevent any glimpse of a true inner self”.5 Yet, as Lena Cowen Orlin has argued, the modern idea of privacy as a desirable “right” does not transfer easily to early modern England. At that time privacy was ambivalent, inspiring “an uneasy mixture of desire and distrust”, associated with moral, social and political transgressions such as adultery and treason.6 The idea that the portrait miniature reserves a space for personal privacy and interiority assumes firstly that this kind of privacy was desirable, and secondly that Elizabethans interpreted qualities like ornament as concealing some kind of “true self”. I suggest that these assumptions are unwarranted, arguing instead that directness and intimacy are better concepts for understanding miniatures in their original contexts than modern notions of privacy and interiority. I show that Elizabethans saw miniatures as concise and unmediated representations of the “presence” and true features of sitters, and that the miniature was a fundamentally social object, a valued means of negotiating early modern relationships.

  • 7 See e.g. C. Winter, art. cit., p.183; R. Strong, The Elizabethan Miniature, op. cit., p.136.
  • 8 Nicholas Hilliard, A Treatise Concerning the Arte of Limning, eds. R. K. R. Thornton and T. G. S. C (...)

4As part of this argument, I want to put forward a new way of viewing Hilliard’s style which runs counter to its usual characterisation as “unrealistic” or “anti-naturalistic”.7 Hilliard himself wrote, “all painting imitateth nature, or the life in euery thinge”.8 Instead of dismissing his claim, I ask what qualities enabled miniatures to “imitate nature, or the life” in Hilliard’s and his contemporaries’ eyes. In the first part of this essay, I argue that Elizabethans thought of Hilliard’s work as a direct, unmediated representation of reality, by virtue of its method of creation, scale and materials. The second part places the miniature in its social context, revisiting recent debates about privacy, and offering ‘intimacy’ as a better way to conceptualise the social conditions made possible by miniature portraits. I hope to show that Elizabethans considered miniatures to be an effective means of achieving a variety of social ends, and that this effectiveness was predicated partly on the miniature’s formal and physical attributes.

  • 9 For more on the process of ‘drawing from the life’ in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, see (...)

5My arguments about directness apply mainly to the miniatures Nicholas Hilliard executed in the presence of sitters, and are less applicable to his later “mask of youth” portraits of Elizabeth I and his copies of oil paintings, although the connotations of vividness attached to the medium would have spread to these works too, and the social roles of such miniatures corresponded with those of miniatures made “after the life”.9 I focus mainly on Hilliard because his work has suffered most from mischaracterisation in secondary literature, but I do not mean to suggest that Oliver’s miniatures are less direct or intimate than Hilliard’s. Oliver’s mode of realism is different, generally aligned more closely with continental Renaissance developments in areas such as linear perspective and pictorial illusionism, and therefore more intelligible to us now. My aim in this article is to recover the qualities of Hilliard’s miniatures which made them direct for an English audience in the sixteenth century, who had a very different set of references and expectations, and to explore how these qualities contributed to the miniature’s broader roles in early modern social exchanges.

Quickness, Liveliness, Brevity and Directness

  • 10 Ludovico Ariosto, Orlando furioso in English heroicall verse, trans. Sir John Harington, London, 15 (...)
  • 11 Alexander Marr, ‘Pregnant Wit: ingegno in Renaissance England’, British Art Studies, 1, Autumn 2015 (...)
  • 12 E.g. George Puttenham, The Art of English Poesy, ed. Gavin Alexander, coll. Penguin Classics, Londo (...)

6In the notes to his translation of Ludovico Aristo’s Orlando Furioso (1591) John Harington recounts Nicholas Hilliard’s skill “for taking the true lines of the face”, describing what could almost be an artistic party-trick: “my self have seen him in white and blacke in foure lines only set downe the feature of the Queenes Majesties countenance, that it was even thereby to bee knowne.”10 Alexander Marr notes the subtext of quickness and economical elegance in this quotation, and relates it to the Italian concept of ingegno and its various English guises, including wittiness and ingenuity.11 More generally, brevity and concision were associated with directness; a vivid, unmediated kind of communication. Despite the rather verbose style which characterised so much writing in the period, brevity was highly valued, particularly in the composition of emblems and epigrams.12 Harington’s account of Hilliard’s four-line Elizabeth is implicitly quick, in that it presumably wouldn’t have taken the artist long to set down these four lines, but also concise. Hilliard’s skill lies in the economy of his work, while still achieving a recognisable representation: the Queen’s countenance “was even thereby to be known”.

  • 13 Richard Huloet, Huloets dictionarie newelye corrected, London, 1572, sig.Ll4r.
  • 14 R.G., The famous historie of Albions queene, London, 1600, sig.B3v.
  • 15 Letter from Sir Henry Unton to Elizabeth I, dated 3 February 1596, ed., William Murdin, A Collectio (...)
  • 16 On the concept of enargeia in general, see e.g. Heinrich F. Plett, Enargeia in Classical Antiquity (...)

7‘Quickness’ was also cognate with ‘liveliness’. The terms ‘quick’ and ‘lively’ are defined together in Richard Huloet’s Latin, French and English dictionary of 1572, along with the Latin words animatus, vividus and vivus, and French alaigre and vif, all referring to a sense of life or animacy, but also vigour and spiritedness.13 The word ‘lively’ was itself regularly used to describe physical, crafted objects, and miniatures were no exception. In R.G.’s The Famous Historie of Albions Queene, c.1600, Queen Katherine is said to have “most kindly kissed her Husbandes lively Picture, which as then hanged about her necke by a faire chaine or rundle of Gold”, referring to a portrait miniature.14 Henry Unton reports King Henri IV’s plea to be given Unton’s miniature of Elizabeth, saying that “to possesse the Favor of the lively Picture, he would forsake the World”.15 The word ‘lively’ was also commonly used to describe the effects of rhetorical techniques which aimed at achieving vividness, or enargeia. Enargeia was deemed a powerful persuasive technique because it made absent things present, describing events so that they seemed more ‘immediate’ to their readers or listeners, as though they were happening right now: a theme which returns us to the element of duration present in the idea of quickness and brevity.16

  • 17 N. Hilliard, Arte of Limning, ed. cit.,, p.84-85.
  • 18 Katherine Coombs and Alan Derbyshire, ‘Nicholas Hilliard’s Workshop Practice Reconsidered’, eds. Ta (...)
  • 19 N. Hilliard, Arte of Limning, ed. cit., p.84-87.

8Hilliard revisits Harington’s anecdote in his own treatise, when he discusses the “the truth of the line”: what he sees as “the principal part of painting or drawing after the life”.17 Katherine Coombs and Alan Derbyshire have shown that surviving miniatures give an exaggerated impression of the linearity of Hilliard’s style, as he tended to use fugitive pigments for shadowing (including litmus, indigo and red lake).18 But Hilliard at least offers a rationale for the use of a more linear, economical style in miniatures, explaining that “plaine lines without shadowing” are best for capturing likeness, particularly in the case of the miniature which “is to be viewed of necessity in hand near unto the eye”.19 Hilliard links the qualities of line and likeness with the miniature’s uniquely small scale, suggesting that the miniature’s size favours a particularly concise, or economical, approach to rendering likeness.

  • 20 Ibid., p.78-79. This same manner of constructing the eye is also found in later miniatures, e.g. Wa (...)

9Setting aside the painstakingly reproduced costumes and ruffs characteristic of Hilliard’s aristocratic female sitters, we find a sense of economy or concision in his rendering of features, even in miniatures with well-preserved modelling. In Hilliard’s 1590 miniature of Mary Herbert, Countess of Pembroke (Figs. 1 and 2), the shape of the eyes is given by a curved line for the upper eyelashes, meeting an iris and pupil rendered as a circle of black inside a circle of brown and, beneath, four dots hinting at the lower lashes. In the 1578 miniature of Francis Bacon (Figs. 3 and 4) the eye is painted in a similar way, this time with only a little more detail: a stippled line for the upper lashes, and a series of dots for the lashes on the lower lid. The iris and pupil are rendered with three concentric circles of colour, with stippling of the outer colour in the inner ring. In both miniatures a small white highlight at the top of the pupil – the “reflection of the light which appeareth like a whit spek” referred to by Hilliard in his Treatise – gives the eye mass and texture.20 In these details we catch a glimpse of the miniaturist as he is described by John Harington, who in capturing likeness found the simplest, most economical means of rendering features. His costumes are admittedly another matter.

  • 21 Victoria Button, Katherine Coombs and Alan Derbyshire, ‘Limning, the Perfection of Painting: The Ar (...)
  • 22 K. Coombs and A. Derbyshire, op. cit., p.246. Norgate prescribed three sittings of unequal length: (...)
  • 23 J. M. Muller and J. Murrell, eds., Miniatura, ed. cit., p.79; cited in K. Coombs and A. Derbyshire, (...)

10The economy of Hilliard’s features, as opposed to the intricacy of his costumes, is perhaps explained by the process of manufacture. Coombs and Derbyshire have identified passages in Hilliard’s Treatise which suggest that miniatures were, at least in part, painted from life. They read his reference to working with a slightly darker colour onto the carnation “till you be sure you be in the right way” as evidence that he was working ad vivum rather than copying from a drawing, and his comment that the “wiser sort” of sitter will “mark the proceedings of the workman” is taken to imply that the sitter had an opportunity to view the work as it was being painted.21 They also suggest that a miniature would have taken form over the course of three sittings; at the first, Hilliard would take an initial likeness and outline the posture and costume, and at the second and third he continued to refine the features and add detail to the ruff and costume.22 They note that Hilliard may have worked up the details of the jewels and costume while the sitter was absent, as the later miniaturist Edward Norgate, who was familiar with the processes of both Hilliard and Isaac Oliver, wrote that “for the apparell, Linnen Jewells, pearle and such like, you are to lay them before you in the same posture as your designe is, and when you are alone, you may take your owne time, to finish them, with as much neatnes and perfection as you please, or can.”23 If the details of jewels and ruffs were finished in the artist’s own time, when the sitter was absent, this would explain their more elaborate appearance when compared with the economical painting of many of Hilliard’s faces, which would have taken form during the limited period of a sitting.

  • 24 N. Hilliard, Arte of Limning, ed. cit., p.76-77.
  • 25 Ibid., p.74-75.

11But besides the fixed duration of each sitting, other factors encouraged the miniaturist to work quickly on the sitter’s features. Hilliard makes reference to the speed with which the limner had to work to “catch thosse louely graces wittye smilings, and thosse stolne glances wch sudainely like lighting passe and another Countenance taketh place”.24 He emphasises the brevity of expressions “which suddenly like lightning pass” – presumably expressions which flatter the sitter, described elsewhere in the Treatise: “for ther is no person but hath a variety of looks, and countenance, as well ilbecoming as pleassing or delighting”.25 Far from seeing these “favourable” looks as fabrications, however, Hilliard presents them as momentary truths which must be captured “after the life”. These passages conjure a vivid picture of the artist in the presence of the sitter, working quickly but deftly to record a fleeting expression on vellum. The emphasis is on observation, not invention, and on the instant transfer of “lovely graces, witty smilings” and “stolen glances” to the page.

  • 26 Roy Strong, The English Renaissance Miniature, op. cit., p.9. My emphasis. This clearly does not ap (...)

12By emphasising the speed at which this all takes place, Hilliard minimises the gap between the sitter and their likeness, something which chimes with the visual evidence of his economical approach to faces. His work, written and painted, foregrounds the directness of the correspondence between the person and the miniature. This directness is still powerful for us now: “these objects present the men and women of their age as they really were” writes Roy Strong in The English Renaissance Miniature (1983), something he also attributes to the “accident of their technical tradition” and the claim that miniaturists “only ever paint what they see before them”.26 Yet the vividness and directness of the miniature is not one of general verisimilitude, rather a particularly immediate – quick – kind of representation: a record, Hilliard claims, of something that “like lightning” passed. Accounts from the period show that our perception of the miniature’s directness is not anachronistic. The responses of Elizabethan viewers suggest that they too experienced a very direct correspondence between the miniature and the person it represented.

  • 27 Graham Reynolds, ‘The Painter Plays the Spider’, Apollo, 79, 1964, p.279-284, here p.282.

13The behaviour recorded around miniatures is reminiscent of the treatment of images of saints in Catholicism: they are kissed, carried on the person, and adorned with precious materials. Indeed, Graham Reynolds summarises the miniature in this context as a “fetish, a representation of the beloved akin to the religious tokens of saints, but also redolent of an even more primeval form of magic and witchcraft”.27 I read these actions differently, however, as an indicator not of magical thinking on the part of Elizabethan viewers, but of the level of directness and vividness which the miniaturists managed to achieve in their work.

  • 28 Sir James Melville of Halhill, Memoirs of his own Life, Edinburgh, Bannatyne Club, 1827, p.122.
  • 29 Letter from Sir Henry Unton to Elizabeth I, dated 3 February 1596, ed. W. Murdin, op. cit., p. 718.
  • 30 Felicity Heal, The Power of Gifts: Gift-Exchange in Early Modern England, Oxford, Oxford University (...)

14Often the treatment of miniatures is conventional. When Elizabeth I kissed the miniature of Mary Queen of Scots in the presence of Mary’s envoy James Melville, the image was a vehicle for a staged diplomatic action, performed for the benefit of the spectator. Beyond the fact that it happened to represent Mary Queen of Scots, nothing in the description suggests that the miniature’s qualities catalysed Elizabeth’s action.28 Something similar is at work in King Henri IV’s response to Henry Unton’s miniature of Elizabeth. According to Unton, Henri viewed the miniature “with Passion and Admiration” and then “with great Reverence, he kissed it twice or thrice”, before finally “he toke it from me, vowing... that, to possesse the favor of the lively Picture, he would forsake all the World”.29 These episodes recall Felicity Heal’s comments about the use of portraits in diplomatic exchanges, when likenesses “were more than straightforward visual identifiers” and “could personate the distant ruler”.30 But Unton’s account demonstrates why miniatures were particularly well-suited to this political role. The intensity of Henri’s observation of the little picture, combined with the description of it as “lively”, is suggestive of the miniature’s vivid, direct representation of Elizabeth. It implies that the vividness and scale of the image intensified the king’s response, and thus contributed to its effectiveness in winning admiration and support from a foreign monarch.

  • 31 N. Hilliard, Arte of Limning, ed. cit., p.62-63; Henry Constable, ‘To Mr. Hilliard vpon occasion of (...)
  • 32 N. Hilliard, Arte of Limning, ed. cit., p.62-64.

15Such behaviour illustrates the intimacy of the miniature, which springs not only from its apparently spontaneous capturing of a likeness, but also from its scale, which causes it to be viewed “near unto the eye”. But before turning to the subject of intimacy, there is one other way in which the miniature can be seen as a ‘direct’ or unmediated representation of reality. Creating a realistic representation of stones and fabrics was a highly valued part of the miniaturist’s craft: Hilliard describes the miniaturist’s ability to give “the true lustur to pearle and precious stone”, and this skill is also noted by the poet Henry Constable, who praised Hilliard for inventing the means “To giue to stones and pearles true die and light”.31 The repetition of “true” in both of these quotations emphasises the accuracy with which Hilliard was thought to render a material’s “lustre”. But the materials themselves provided an even more direct means of representation. As Hilliard says, limning “worketh the metals Gold or Siluer with themselfes which so enricheth and innobleth the worke that it seemeth to be the thinge it sefe euen the worke of god and not of man”.32

  • 33 Leon Battista Alberti, On Painting: A New Translation and Critical Edition, ed. and transl. Rocco S (...)
  • 34 L. B. Alberti, On Painting, ed. cit., p.72-73. He goes on to discuss the use of gold and other orna (...)
  • 35 R. Strong, The English Renaissance Miniature, op. cit., p.97; p.135.
  • 36 Compare C. Anderson, art. cit., p.325: ‘English painting, sculpture, and architecture placed the hi (...)

16In using gold and silver themselves to represent gold and silver in limning, Hilliard was at odds with advice given by Italian humanist Alberti in Della Pittura over a century earlier, to “strive... to imitate by means of colours rather than by means of gold the abundance of golden rays that strikes observers’ eyes from every part”.33 This recommendation, now strongly associated with the transition from medieval to Renaissance artistic practice, is intended to make the painting more realistic, for when real gold is used “the major parts of [those] surfaces that one needed to represent as bright and brilliant appear dark to the observers; and others [surfaces], perhaps, which should be darker, result more luminous”.34 For Alberti, the depiction of gold with colours rather than with gold itself allows reality to be represented as it “should be”. Yet rather than providing further evidence for Hilliard’s “reactionary”, “medieval” aesthetic,35 the comparison emphasises the fact that realism has different inflections in different contexts. Hilliard is less interested in how closely the picture approximates what appears to the eye than he is in minimising the gap between the substance of the representation and reality. Gold and silver are thus represented most realistically by themselves, not by an intermediary.36

  • 37 K. Coombs and A. Derbyshire, op. cit., p.248-249.
  • 38 C. MacLeod et al, op. cit., p.104-105, no. 27.
  • 39 Notes appended to treatise in unknown hand to Bodleian, Tanner 326, reproduced in Martin Hardie, ed (...)

17This is not to say that Hilliard’s work is naively literal, without room for clever effects. He invented a variety of new techniques to render stones and fabrics. He seems to have been the first to apply coloured resins over a base of burnished silver to create three-dimensional, translucent gemstones, while his use of thick white paint for ruffs and lace makes their texture almost tangible.37 One of his most imaginative innovations was the use of gold to give life to fire. In his c.1600 portrait of ‘A Young Man Against a Background of Flames’ (Fig. 6) Hilliard inserts strands of powdered gold into the flames in the background. When the miniature is held and moved in the hand, the gold catches the light and seems to flicker, giving a startlingly realistic impression of moving flames.38 This trick was not picked up by the later anonymous writer who appended a series of recipes to a manuscript copy of Edward Norgate’s Miniatura, who recommends only “red lead and vermilion” for red flames, “masticote” for yellow, and smalt and white lead for blue.39 The effect was emulated to perhaps even greater effect by Isaac Oliver around ten years after Hilliard, in the miniature of ‘A Man Consumed by Flames’, c.1610 (Ham House, Surrey, NT 1139627). This man appears to be swallowed up by a flickering gold-leaf fire, which glitters both in front of and behind the figure.

  • 40 N. Hilliard, Arte of Limning, ed. cit., p.68.
  • 41 R. Strong, The English Renaissance Miniature, op. cit. p.97.

18Hilliard sought to reduce the gap between his art and life itself. Viewed in this way, rather than through the prism of seventeenth-century artistic developments, his art accords more obviously with his comment in the Treatise, that “all painting imitateth nature, or the life in euery thinge”.40 Hilliard may not have been able to “define space in terms of Renaissance scientific perspective,”41 but this did not make his work reactionary or anti-naturalistic for Elizabethan viewers. Instead, we get a sense of their overwhelming confidence in the materials and techniques of his art to represent reality – sitters, their personalities and their jewels – as directly and immediately as possible.

Privacy, Intimacy and Withholding

  • 42 L. C. Orlin, op. cit., p.1.
  • 43 P. Fumerton, op. cit., p.69-70. Emphasis in the original.
  • 44 For an exploration of this topic in relation to the Renaissance period more generally, see Peter Bu (...)
  • 45 L. C. Orlin, op. cit., p.242; she uses this phrase to frame Wolsey’s privacy in his long gallery as (...)

19Lena Cowen Orlin has observed that “personal privacy takes many forms: interiority, spatial control, intimacy, urban anonymity, secrecy, withholding, solitude”.42 In Fumerton’s analysis, the ‘privacy’ of the portrait miniature is one of withholding and interiority: “the private self faced inward toward secrecy: it withheld itself from the cultural whole”. Again: “the great form of Elizabethan retreat was ornament. The Elizabethan private self withheld itself paradoxically by holding forth in ostentatious, public showcases of ornament – some as large as architecture and some as small as jewelled lockets”.43 In what follows, I want to suggest that Elizabethans did not think of ornament, or portrait miniatures more generally, as a means of withholding a private ‘self’. To talk of a private self at all is to assume a model of selfhood which may not even apply to the Elizabethan period.44 Instead, I argue that the portrait miniature was a tool in networks of social exchange, used to build relationships through its powerful vividness, and through its careful control of its audiences. As such, it was private, but in Orlin’s senses of “spatial control” and “intimacy”. By limiting the miniatures’ audience, Elizabethans created selective social networks which included as much as excluded. The purpose was not to “withhold the self”, but to control access to one’s social circle, the very act of control becoming a kind of self-display: “a privacy with commodity value”.45

  • 46 F. Heal, op. cit., p.30.

20To pin down the social roles of miniatures, it is important to understand the motives of the people who commissioned, gave and wore them. Felicity Heal has noted the “transactional” nature of gift-giving in early modern England, and miniatures were part of this system of exchange.46 Givers usually expected something in return. Often miniatures were love tokens, intended to convey the sitter’s passion – for example the Young Man Against a Background of Flames (Fig 6) – and to secure the recipient’s affection. In this case, the young man holds what seems to be another miniature in a case, hanging from a chain around his neck, perhaps indicating that the miniature was painted to reciprocate that sent by his lover. However, recipients of miniatures were not necessarily expected to respond in kind: there were numerous ways that the sender of the miniature might hope to be repaid.

  • 47 Calendar of State Papers, Venice, 1520-26, p.624: 1451, Letter from Gasparo Spinelli to his Brother (...)
  • 48 F. Heal, op. cit., p.54; 175.
  • 49 On Elizabeth’s gifting of miniatures, see F. Heal, op. cit., p.118. For Elizabeth’s later use of Pe (...)
  • 50 C. Macleod et al., op. cit., p.172-173, no.64.

21Miniatures could be intended to persuade a viewer to political action or loyalty. This was the case with some of the earliest recorded miniatures, of Francis I and his two sons, sent to Henry VIII by Francis’ sister in 1526. The pictures gave force to Francis’ request that Henry intervene with the Holy Roman Emperor, who was holding the boys captive. The miniatures were apparently highly effective. The Venetian ambassador’s secretary reported that “it would be very difficult to express the delight which these gifts caused his Majesty, for the demonstration was extreme and will testify eternally to the most Christian King [Francis]’s obligation to him [Henry]”.47 The political rather than romantic use of miniatures illustrates a dynamic which persisted into the next century. Later miniatures were given with the aim of promoting loyalty to the monarch, for example those given by James I to faithful subjects such as Thomas Lyte.48 Elizabeth I also gave miniatures as a means of charming and rewarding her courtiers, representing a heady combination of politics and romance, part of the games of courtly love which Elizabeth used to exert political control.49 Miniatures could also allude to loyalty between friends or allies, for example the ‘Young Man Among Roses’ (Fig. 5) whose fully-clothed appearance combined with a motto taken from a political speech in Lucan (dat poenas laudata fides: “praised loyalty is punished”) may suggest a political rather than romantic interpretation.50

  • 51 When Patricia Fumerton writes about a sonnet’s use of the ‘artifice of all-embracing rhetoric’ she (...)
  • 52 See Andrew Morrall, ‘Inscriptional Wisdom and the Domestic Arts in Early Modern Northern Europe’, e (...)
  • 53 See e.g. Gavin Alexander, ed., Sidney’s ‘The Defence of Poesy’ and Selected Renaissance Literary Cr (...)

22These examples demonstrate that miniatures were used as tools to navigate complex relationships and situations. In this sense they are rhetorical: rhetoric being the art of persuading, teaching or delighting an audience. The Elizabethan patron classes were taught the techniques of rhetoric at grammar school and university as part of their study of languages, and deployed them in their own writing to increase its power and efficacy.51 Furthermore, continual exposure to rhetorical techniques produced rhetorical “habits of thought”: frameworks and patterns of communication that lasted for the rest of their lives.52 Although traditionally associated with written or verbal communication, rhetorical and poetic handbooks contain many references to the visual arts, and there is a sense of equivalence between the arts, traceable to the trope of the “sister arts” found in Horace and Simonides.53 Miniatures, as much as speeches, were channels for effective, persuasive communication. Given in acts of courtship, or as declarations of loyalty, their role was essentially rhetorical, in that they were intended to charm and persuade the recipient into thinking well of the giver, and to act in their interests – by agreeing to marry them, support them in political endeavours, or otherwise help them.

  • 54 P. Fumerton, op. cit., p.70.

23Images of all kinds could be deployed to rhetorical ends, but certain characteristics of the miniature made it especially suitable for its social role. Perhaps most obviously, the miniature was usually small. This made it portable and discreet, but also intimate – when viewed it was usually kept close to the body, held or worn rather than hung on a wall. The proximity to the person represented would have heightened the intimate power of the representation. Fumerton notes another feature – the fact that miniatures rarely include the insignia of office, or heraldic motifs.54 This is true; miniatures seem not to be used for the kind of professional and dynastic posturing which so often forms the context for large-scale portraiture, suggesting that miniatures had different social roles.

  • 55 Imprese were found in a variety of places, appearing on tournament shields, in interior decoration, (...)

24Even so, they were not entirely distinct. Large-scale and miniature portraits did share a different kind of motif, one which exploded in popularity in late sixteenth-century England. This was the impresa, a combination of word and image intended to express an idea or philosophy personal to the owner, related to the similarly-structured, but more generally-applicable emblem.55 The fact that imprese appeared in both portrait miniatures and large-scale portraits should complicate any simple distinction between ‘public’ panel painting and ‘private’ miniatures. Imprese indicate that both types of portrait played a role in self-display and social negotiation: miniatures were different, but not entirely distinct, from the images which represented public and inherited positions.

  • 56 Michael Leslie, ‘The dialogue between bodies and souls: Pictures and poesy in the English Renaissan (...)
  • 57 R. Strong, The English Renaissance Miniature, op. cit., p.95.
  • 58 Cf L. Gent, op. cit., p.29, on ‘the truth of meaning and the truth of lifelikeness’: ‘the taste for (...)
  • 59 On coteries in English poetic culture, see Ted-Larry Pebworth, “John Donne, Coterie Poetry, and the (...)

25Imprese are an excellent illustration of the Elizabethan love of riddles and puzzles. With their foreign-language mottos and obscure imagery, imprese have been seen as primarily aiming “to conceal, not reveal” their philosophical content.56 The impresa’s frequent appearance in Hilliard’s miniatures has contributed to the view that his portraits are primarily “symbolic”, and therefore unrealistic, in their mode of communication.57 This view in turn feeds into the idea that miniatures are ‘private’: symbols exist at a remove from their content, gesturing to it without representing it literally. If the miniature is symbolic, this is another means by which sitters can be said to “withhold” themselves from viewers of their miniatures. But symbolism and realism need not be distinct.58 On the contrary, I argue that both miniatures and imprese were thought to offer a direct and vivid representation of different aspects of a sitter – their appearance, and their thoughts – to an intimate coterie of viewers and readers.59

  • 60 See Catharine MacLeod et al, op. cit., p.108-109, no.29.
  • 61 C. MacLeod et al, op. cit., p.172-173, no.64 and p.106-107, no.28.
  • 62 Roy Strong, Artists of the Tudor Court: The Portrait Miniature Rediscovered 1520-1620, exh. cat., L (...)

26Imprese appear in miniatures in a variety of guises. They sometimes float ambiguously in the picture plane, like their calligraphic inscriptions. For example, in Hilliard’s ‘Unknown Man’, 1616 (Private Collection) with the motto “Encore un * luit pour moy” (still/another star shines for me) a little star forms the image of the impresa, but also stands for a word in the motto.60 More commonly the symbol is realistically associated with the sitter, as something held in the hand or appearing in the background, as in Nicholas Hilliard’s ‘Young Man Among Roses’ (Fig. 5) and ‘Man Clasping a Hand from a Cloud’ (V&A P.21-1942).61 One of the few non-Hilliard impresa miniatures is Isaac Oliver’s ‘A Man consumed by Flames’ (Ham House, NT 1139627) which bears the motto, “Alget qui non ardet” (he grows cold who does not burn), and is clearly intended as a love token.62 In all these cases, the impresa contributes to the overall meaning of the miniature by giving it a context or setting, allowing it to make reference to the social situation which caused it to be painted.

  • 63 Abraham Fraunce, c.1590, Symbolicae Philosophiae Liber Quartus et Ultimus, ed. John Manning trans. (...)
  • 64 Ibid.

27Miniatures were particularly well-suited to carrying imprese, as they had several qualities in common. Like the ‘quick’ or brief miniature, imprese were considered concise: “in every impresa there are two things which merit particular consideration: conciseness and clarity” (breuitas et perspicuitas) writes Abraham Fraunce in his manuscript treatise Symbolicae Philosophiae (c.1590), drawing on the precepts of continental emblem writers.63 He also explains why such qualities were valued. Imagining the impresa’s recipient as a female friend or beloved (amica), he writes that its “concise nature” would “entice her to read it” while its “charm would invite her to contemplate it” (cuiu et breuitas alliciat ad legendum, et venustas invitet ad considerandum).64 The concision and charm (or beauty) of the impresa contributes to its power, beguiling the viewer into interpreting it, and inviting rather than preventing the discovery of its meaning. This effect was surely doubled when the impresa was combined with a concise and charming portrait miniature.

  • 65 Ibid, p.6-7: ‘Qui primus ergo Simbolum excogitauit voluit nimirum hac ratione implicatam animi noti (...)
  • 66 See above, n.16.
  • 67 Enargeia was often associated with painted imagery in rhetorical handbooks, e.g. Desiderius Erasmus (...)

28I have already suggested above ways in which the miniature expressed a kind of ‘Elizabethan realism’, by minimising the gap between representation and reality. Far from being anti-realistic, the impresa can be seen as contributing to the miniature’s vivid impression. According to the Elizabethan emblem theorist Abraham Fraunce (c.1590), imprese were intended “to disclose... a concept deeply implanted within [the owner’s] mind, and to reveal it to his mistress or his friends or to other onlookers”.65 Included in portraits, they present something of the sitter’s interior world, intended not to conceal the ‘self’, but to reveal more about them in a gradual, difficult way. As such, imprese help to align the miniature with the rhetorical technique known as enargeia.66 Enargeia was a kind of vivid description, considered powerfully persuasive in verbal contexts because it was able to make audiences feel they were seeing events for themselves rather than just hearing or reading about them.67 The ‘lively’ impression of presence in portrait miniatures, produced by their ‘direct’ representation of sitters, can be seen as a painted example of enargeia, intended to make the viewer feel as if the sitter was present. Imprese contribute to this sense of immediacy by allowing the miniature to represent the sitter’s interior thoughts as well as their appearance. They increase its power by enabling the sitter to speak ‘through’ the miniature to its intended recipient.

  • 68 Orlin, op. cit. p.264.
  • 69 Samuel Daniel, The Worthy Tracte of Paulus Iouius, London, 1585, sig.B3v.
  • 70 Letter from Henry Wotton to Edmund Bacon, March 1613, printed in Reliquae Wottonianae: or, a Collec (...)

29Often the meanings of imprese are lost to us, particularly when sitters are unidentified and it becomes almost impossible to pinpoint the circumstances to which they allude. But as Orlin has warned, “to presume things not knowable now were things not known then is wrongly to imagine each obscurity as a symptom of privacy in early modern culture”.68 Imprese were intended to be intelligible, but only to a select audience. According to the earliest emblem treatise, written by Paolo Giovio (1555) and translated into English by Samuel Daniel (1585), the impresa should “be not obscure, that it neede a Sibilla to enterprete it, nor so apparant that euery rusticke may vnderstand it”.69 Admittedly, this did not always happen as intended even at the time. In a 1613 letter to Edmund Bacon, Henry Wotton described the imprese presented at the tilts marking the anniversary of King James’ accession: “whereof some were so dark, that their meaning is not yet understood, unless perchance that were their meaning, not to be understood”.70 Wotton acknowledges the possibility that the imprese were meant to be impenetrable, in which case they still conveyed something to viewers (“that were their meaning”), but his description of the meaning as “not yet understood” implies unfinished business. Generally speaking, imprese were meant to be understood by those with the appropriate knowledge.

  • 71 J. Melville, op. cit., p.122.
  • 72 Letter from Sir Henry Unton to Elizabeth I, dated 3 February 1596, ed. W. Murdin, op. cit., p. 718. (...)
  • 73 Edmond Lodge, Illustrations of British History, Biography and Manners, vol. 3, London, 1791, p.146- (...)
  • 74 See C. Macleod, op. cit., p.24; also Katherine Duncan-Jones, ‘”Preserved Dainties”: late Elizabetha (...)

30Miniatures, like imprese, sought to limit their audiences, not to shut them out completely. They were concealed in cases, worn so that the image could not be seen until the owner chose to reveal it. Catharine MacLeod has noted the “performance-based kind of interaction” involved in showing miniatures, which almost always “involve[s] a kind of staged reluctance”. This is evident in the account of James Melville viewing the miniature of Robert Dudley in Elizabeth’s bedchamber: “Although she was loath to let me see it, at length I by importunity obtained the sight thereof,”71 and also in Unton’s letter to Elizabeth about his audience with Henri IV: “I made some Difficulties; yett uppon his Importunity, offred it unto his Viewe verie seacretly, houlding it still in my Hande”.72 Sometimes this reluctance may have been real rather than staged. When Lady Derby wore a miniature to court, William Browne described how “the Queen, espying itt, asked what fyne jewell that was: The Lady Darby was curious to excuse the shewing of itt, butt the Queen would have itt, and opening itt, and fynding itt to be Mr Secretarye’s snatcht itt away...”.73 In this instance Derby’s reluctance to reveal the miniature of her uncle Robert Cecil was vindicated by subsequent events, the Queen tying it first to her shoe, and then to her elbow: requiring Cecil to do some damage limitation for his reputation, in the form of a song which put a positive spin on the episode.74

  • 75 C. Macleod, op. cit., p.22; M. Leslie, art. cit., p.24.
  • 76 C. Macleod, op. cit., p.22.

31Staged or not, the miniature was a site for “games of concealment and revelation” a quality it shared with the impresa, which, as Michael Leslie says, courted the “paradox of public display and social exclusiveness”.75 Both media depended on the qualities of economy and immediacy for their power, qualities which made the carefully choreographed interactions around miniatures possible. Miniatures were powerful because of their intimate scale, their promise of unmediated access to the person and – via the impresa – their thoughts. These qualities made miniatures an ideal love token: their scale, proximity to the viewer, and impression of presence gave them an erotic charge. But the same qualities also lent force to requests of all kinds, romantic or political, which were made through the presentation of a miniature. This made them highly suitable for the Elizabethans’ personal model of politics, cultivated not only by Elizabeth I amongst her male courtiers, but by all powerful people at court, whose success depended on the continuing loyalty of their followers.76

Conclusion

32Shortly after killing Polonius, Hamlet attempts to persuade his mother of the sin she has committed in marrying his uncle by showing her two pictures:

Looke heere vpon this Picture, and on this,
The counterfet presentment of two Brothers:
See what a grace was seated on his Brow,
Hyperions curles, the front of Ioue himselfe,
An eye like Mars, to threaten or command
A Station, like the Herald Mercurie
New lighted on a heauen-kissing hill:
A Combination, and a forme indeed,
Where euery God did seeme to set his Seale,
To giue the world assurance of a man.
This was your Husband. Looke you now what followes.
Heere is your Husband, like a Mildew'd eare
Blasting his wholsom brother. Haue you eyes?
Could you on this faire Mountaine leaue to feed,
And batten on this Moore? Ha? Haue you eyes? (III.iv.2437-2451)77

  • 78 The pun on ‘Moore’ at the end of this quotation, contrasting with Hamlet’s ‘faire’ father, may sugg (...)
  • 79 It has been suggested that Shakespeare’s Sonnet 16 refers to Hilliard’s portrait (1594) of Henry Wr (...)

33The pictures in this scene are often interpreted as miniatures, reference having been made to pictures of Hamlet’s uncle “in little”, earlier in the play (II.ii.1409-1413). Hamlet’s description of the two portraits here, particularly that of his father, relies on the idea that the characters of the two men are evident in their pictures: one combines the virtues of various gods, the other is “like a mildew’d ear”.78 Shakespeare, who must have seen miniatures painted by Hilliard, seems to agree with the artist in suggesting that miniatures could offer direct access to the sitter’s characters.79 There is no hidden self here: the images represent the two men’s true characters, and, for Queen Gertrude, “turn’st mine eyes into my very soul” (III.iv.2465).

34The episode suggests the miniature’s perceived ability to represent ‘directly’: to reveal a person’s character through their appearance. Even more interestingly, Hamlet uses the miniatures as props to persuade his mother of the wrongness of her actions. The images are a vehicle for an exchange which Hamlet hopes will change his mother’s feelings and behaviour: they are rhetorical tools. Hamlet’s case is extreme, but Elizabethans used miniatures in precisely this way, to charm and persuade recipients into thinking or acting in ways that would benefit the sitter. Their directness helped their users in this aim by offering what was seen as almost-unmediated access to the sitter – thus creating an intimate connection with the viewer, and enabling the power of their presence to lend force to the sitter’s intentions.

  • 80 A. Fraunce, Symbolicae Philosophiae, ed. cit., p.6-7: ‘Anima est ipsa utoris si ita loqui liceat in (...)

35Imprese contributed to the miniature’s social aims by portraying the sitter’s thoughts as well as their appearance. This increased the miniature’s vividness, but also put a particular slant on the gift of a miniature, emphasising friendship, love, loyalty, or grief. Chosen by the sitter and representing their “purpose, theme, thought or meaning”, as Abraham Fraunce put it, they offered an opportunity for them to speak through the miniature to its intended recipient.80 The miniature was not private, but intimate, because it was fundamentally social, not solitary. Games of concealing and revealing heightened the rhetorical effect of the miniature. By controlling access to the miniature, the owner could make the viewer feel they were being drawn into a favoured circle. The impression of intimacy was part of the game. If the miniature withheld anything, the withholding was only temporary, intended to increase the impact of the ultimate revelation of the sitter’s vivid and unmediated representation – which ‘seemeth to be the thing itself’ – and so inspire the viewer to further acts of loyalty and friendship.

Figure 1 Nicholas Hilliard, ‘Mary Herbert, Countess of Pembroke (1561-1621)’, c.1590, watercolour and bodycolour with gold, on vellum laid on card, 54mm diameter. National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG 5994.

Figure 1   Nicholas Hilliard, ‘Mary Herbert, Countess of Pembroke (1561-1621)’, c.1590, watercolour and bodycolour with gold, on vellum laid on card, 54mm diameter. National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG 5994.

Figure 2 Detail of Figure 1.

Figure 2 Detail of Figure 1.

Figure 3 Nicholas Hilliard, ‘Francis Bacon later Baron Verulam and Viscount St Alban (1561-1626)’, 1578, watercolour and bodycolour with gold on vellum laid on card, 60x47mm, National Portrait Gallery (NPG 6761)

Figure 3  Nicholas Hilliard, ‘Francis Bacon later Baron Verulam and Viscount St Alban (1561-1626)’, 1578, watercolour and bodycolour with gold on vellum laid on card, 60x47mm, National Portrait Gallery (NPG 6761)

Figure 4 Detail of Figure 3.

Figure 4 Detail of Figure 3.

Figure 5 Nicholas Hilliard, ‘Young Man Among Roses’, c.1587, watercolour and bodycolour with gold and silver on vellum laid on card, 135x73mm. Victoria and Albert Museum, London (P.163-1910).

Figure 5  Nicholas Hilliard, ‘Young Man Among Roses’, c.1587, watercolour and bodycolour with gold and silver on vellum laid on card, 135x73mm. Victoria and Albert Museum, London (P.163-1910).

Figure 6 Nicholas Hilliard, ‘Unknown Man Against a Background of Flames’, c.1600, watercolour on vellum laid on card, 69mm x 54mm. Victoria and Albert Museum, London (P.5-1917).

Figure 6  Nicholas Hilliard, ‘Unknown Man Against a Background of Flames’, c.1600, watercolour on vellum laid on card, 69mm x 54mm. Victoria and Albert Museum, London (P.5-1917).
Haut de page

Notes

1 Patricia Fumerton, Cultural Aesthetics, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1991, p.69.

2 Susan Stewart, On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection, Durham, NC, Duke University Press, 1993, p.38, here she is discussing miniature objects in general, for analysis of limnings specifically, see p.125-127; P. Fumerton, op. cit., p.74, specifically referring to the Armada jewel.

3 E.g. Jakob Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, transl. S G C Middlemore, London, George Allen & Unwin, 1878, ‘Part 2 – The Development of the Individual’; cf Lena Cowen Orlin, Locating Privacy in Tudor London, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2007, p.109-110. The locus classicus of this argument in art history is the implications of linear perspective for the construction of the viewer-as-subject, e.g. Erwin Panofsky ‘The history of the theory of human proportions as a reflection of the history of styles’ in Meaning in the Visual Arts, New York, Doubleday Anchor Books, 1955, p.55-107, at. p.98. For an overall assessment of debates about the birth of the individual, see Svere Bagge, ‘The individual in the middle ages and the renaissance: Introduction’, The European Legacy, 2.8, 1997, p.1305-1312.

4 Carl Winter, ‘Hilliard and Elizabethan Miniatures’, The Burlington Magazine, 89.532, July 1947, p. 174-181+183, here p.183. For a more recent example, compare Christy Anderson on Hilliard’s use of perspective ‘to heighten artificiality – not to create a simulation of nature’, in ‘The Secrets of Vision in Renaissance England’ in Studies in the History of Art, 59, Symposium Papers XXXVI: The Treatise on Perspective: Published and Unpublished, ed., Lyle Massey, (2003), p.322-347 at p.323 and Roy Strong, on Hilliard’s ‘flat aesthetic’ which ‘did nothing to advance the cause of “curious painting”’ in The Elizabethan Miniature, London, 1983, p.135.

5 P. Fumerton, op. cit., p.76-78.

6 L. C. Orlin, op. cit., p.10; also p.226;247.

7 See e.g. C. Winter, art. cit., p.183; R. Strong, The Elizabethan Miniature, op. cit., p.136.

8 Nicholas Hilliard, A Treatise Concerning the Arte of Limning, eds. R. K. R. Thornton and T. G. S. Cain, Manchester, Carcanet, 1981, p.68.

9 For more on the process of ‘drawing from the life’ in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, see Claudia Swan, ‘Ad vivum, naer het leven, from the life: defining a mode of representation’, Word & Image, 11.4, 1995, p.353-372; Peter Parshall, ‘Imago Contrafacta: Images and Facts in the Northern Renaissance’, Art History, 16.4, 1993, p.554-597.

10 Ludovico Ariosto, Orlando furioso in English heroicall verse, trans. Sir John Harington, London, 1591, p.278.

11 Alexander Marr, ‘Pregnant Wit: ingegno in Renaissance England’, British Art Studies, 1, Autumn 2015, online at https://doi.org/10.17658/issn.2058-5462/issue-01/amarr/p6 (last accessed 19/10/2018).

12 E.g. George Puttenham, The Art of English Poesy, ed. Gavin Alexander, coll. Penguin Classics, London, Penguin Books, 2004, p. 102, ‘Of short epigrams’: ‘the shorter the better’. For more on brevity in visual culture, see Christina J Faraday, ‘The concept of “liveliness” in English visual culture, c.1560-c.1630’, PhD thesis (University of Cambridge, 2019) esp. chapter 5.

13 Richard Huloet, Huloets dictionarie newelye corrected, London, 1572, sig.Ll4r.

14 R.G., The famous historie of Albions queene, London, 1600, sig.B3v.

15 Letter from Sir Henry Unton to Elizabeth I, dated 3 February 1596, ed., William Murdin, A Collection of State Papers relating to Affairs in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth from the year 1571 to 1596, London, 1759, p. 718.

16 On the concept of enargeia in general, see e.g. Heinrich F. Plett, Enargeia in Classical Antiquity and the Early Modern Age, Leiden, Brill, 2012. On the relationship between rhetorical liveliness and visual art see C. J. Faraday, op. cit.

17 N. Hilliard, Arte of Limning, ed. cit.,, p.84-85.

18 Katherine Coombs and Alan Derbyshire, ‘Nicholas Hilliard’s Workshop Practice Reconsidered’, eds. Tarnya Cooper, Aviva Burnstock, Maurice Howard and Edward Town, Painting in Britain 1500-1630, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2015, p.247.

19 N. Hilliard, Arte of Limning, ed. cit., p.84-87.

20 Ibid., p.78-79. This same manner of constructing the eye is also found in later miniatures, e.g. Walter Ralegh, c.1585 (NPG 4106) and Mary Herbert, c.1590 (NPG 5994).

21 Victoria Button, Katherine Coombs and Alan Derbyshire, ‘Limning, the Perfection of Painting: The Art of Painting Miniatures’, in C. MacLeod et al, Elizabethan Treasures, exh. cat., London, National Portrait Gallery, 2019, p.20-29, at p.23-24. Other parts of Hilliard’s treatise confirm this view of the artist as painting in the presence of the sitter; he writes that ‘sweet odors comforteth the braine and openeth the vnderstanding, augmenting the delight in Limning, Discret talke or reading, quiet merth or musike ofendeth not, but shortneth the time, and quickneth the sperit both in the drawer, and he which is drawne’. N. Hilliard, Arte of Limning, ed. cit., p.74-75. Although Hilliard does not specify that he is painting rather than sketching in this room with ‘discreet talk’ and ‘quiet mirth or music’, the fact that these activities run on from the reference to ‘delight in Limning’ suggests that the sitter is being painted in this environment.

22 K. Coombs and A. Derbyshire, op. cit., p.246. Norgate prescribed three sittings of unequal length: Jeffrey M Muller and Jim Murrell, eds., Edward Norgate, Miniatura or the Art of Limning, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1997, p.71-73; see also R. Strong, The Renaissance Miniature, op. cit., p.9.

23 J. M. Muller and J. Murrell, eds., Miniatura, ed. cit., p.79; cited in K. Coombs and A. Derbyshire, op. cit., p.248.

24 N. Hilliard, Arte of Limning, ed. cit., p.76-77.

25 Ibid., p.74-75.

26 Roy Strong, The English Renaissance Miniature, op. cit., p.9. My emphasis. This clearly does not apply to impresa miniatures, for which see below.

27 Graham Reynolds, ‘The Painter Plays the Spider’, Apollo, 79, 1964, p.279-284, here p.282.

28 Sir James Melville of Halhill, Memoirs of his own Life, Edinburgh, Bannatyne Club, 1827, p.122.

29 Letter from Sir Henry Unton to Elizabeth I, dated 3 February 1596, ed. W. Murdin, op. cit., p. 718.

30 Felicity Heal, The Power of Gifts: Gift-Exchange in Early Modern England, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2014, p.164.

31 N. Hilliard, Arte of Limning, ed. cit., p.62-63; Henry Constable, ‘To Mr. Hilliard vpon occasion of a picture he made of my Ladie Rich. Sonet 7.’ ed. Joan Grundy The Poems of Henry Constable, Liverpool, Liverpool University Press, 1960, p.158. Clark Hulse, The Rule of Art: Literature and Painting in the Renaissance, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1990, p.162, notes the same similarity.

32 N. Hilliard, Arte of Limning, ed. cit., p.62-64.

33 Leon Battista Alberti, On Painting: A New Translation and Critical Edition, ed. and transl. Rocco Sinisgalli, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2011, p.72-73. Hilliard probably hadn’t read Alberti, but copies of On Painting are known to have existed in England at this time; copies are recorded in the libraries of John Dee (now in the Middle Temple Library) in 1583 and John, Lord Lumley in 1609. Lucy Gent, Picture and Poetry 1560-1620, Leamington Spa: James Hall, 1981, p.81.

34 L. B. Alberti, On Painting, ed. cit., p.72-73. He goes on to discuss the use of gold and other ornaments to frame, saying that ‘A perfect and finished historia, in fact, is very worthy also of the ornament of gems’; a sentiment which, if Hilliard read it, we can imagine he approved of. For the move away from the use of gold and the rise of artistic skill as an alternative index of consumption, see e.g. Michael Baxandall, Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1972, 2nd ed. 1988, p.14-15.

35 R. Strong, The English Renaissance Miniature, op. cit., p.97; p.135.

36 Compare C. Anderson, art. cit., p.325: ‘English painting, sculpture, and architecture placed the highest value on the presence of material, not on its abstract description’.

37 K. Coombs and A. Derbyshire, op. cit., p.248-249.

38 C. MacLeod et al, op. cit., p.104-105, no. 27.

39 Notes appended to treatise in unknown hand to Bodleian, Tanner 326, reproduced in Martin Hardie, ed., Miniatura or The Art of Limning by Edward Norgate, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1919, p.103.

40 N. Hilliard, Arte of Limning, ed. cit., p.68.

41 R. Strong, The English Renaissance Miniature, op. cit. p.97.

42 L. C. Orlin, op. cit., p.1.

43 P. Fumerton, op. cit., p.69-70. Emphasis in the original.

44 For an exploration of this topic in relation to the Renaissance period more generally, see Peter Burke, ‘Individuality and biography in the renaissance’, The European Legacy, 2:8, p.1372-1382.

45 L. C. Orlin, op. cit., p.242; she uses this phrase to frame Wolsey’s privacy in his long gallery as an act of power.

46 F. Heal, op. cit., p.30.

47 Calendar of State Papers, Venice, 1520-26, p.624: 1451, Letter from Gasparo Spinelli to his Brother Lodovico Dec 2. ‘Li qual doni quanto siano stati grati a questa Maest à mi sarebbe difficillimo exprimerlo, perchè certo è stata demostratione troppo grande, et uno testimonio perpetuo, duraturo, che attestera sempre l'obligo del re Christianissimo a questa Maest à.’ Federico Stefani, Guglielmo Berchet and Nicolo Barozzi, eds., I diarii di Marino Sanuto: (1496-1533), vol.43, Venice, F. Visentini, 1895, p.576; F. Heal, op. cit., p.166; see also Gustave Lebel, “British-French artistic Relations in the 16th century,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts, vol.6, no.33, May 1948, p.267-280, at p.272-277.

48 F. Heal, op. cit., p.54; 175.

49 On Elizabeth’s gifting of miniatures, see F. Heal, op. cit., p.118. For Elizabeth’s later use of Petrarchanism to construct and control the ‘amorous gaze’ of her courtiers, see Susan Frye, Elizabeth I: The Competition for Representation, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1993, p.107-109.

50 C. Macleod et al., op. cit., p.172-173, no.64.

51 When Patricia Fumerton writes about a sonnet’s use of the ‘artifice of all-embracing rhetoric’ she is using the word in a modern, not the sixteenth century sense. Far from being sophistry, rhetoric was an indispensible tool to make communication more effective, powerful and moving; op. cit., p.90.

52 See Andrew Morrall, ‘Inscriptional Wisdom and the Domestic Arts in Early Modern Northern Europe’, eds. Natalia Filatkina, Birgit Ulrike Münch and Ane Kleine-Engel, Formelhaftigkeit in Text und Bild, Wiesbaden, Reichert Verlag, 2012, p.129 and n.37; Peter Mack, ‘‘Renaissance Habits of Reading’, ed. Sukanta Chaudhuri Renaissance essays for Kitty Scoular Datta, Calcutta and Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1995, p.1-25; Peter Mack, Elizabethan Rhetoric: theory and practice, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2002.

53 See e.g. Gavin Alexander, ed., Sidney’s ‘The Defence of Poesy’ and Selected Renaissance Literary Criticism, London, Penguin Classics, 2004, 325n35 and 388n67.

54 P. Fumerton, op. cit., p.70.

55 Imprese were found in a variety of places, appearing on tournament shields, in interior decoration, jewellery and clothing. See Peter M. Daly (ed.), Andrea Alciato and the Emblem Tradition: essays in honour of Virginia Woods Callahan, New York, AMS Press, 1988. For imprese in large-scale panel portraits, see e.g. Robert Sidney, c.1588, NPG 1862, and Walter Ralegh, 1588, NPG 7.

56 Michael Leslie, ‘The dialogue between bodies and souls: Pictures and poesy in the English Renaissance’, Word & Image Journal, 1.1, 1985, p.24. See also R. Strong, ‘The Portrait as Impresa’, ed. John Murdoch et al, The English Miniature, London, Yale University Press, 1981, p.68-73.

57 R. Strong, The English Renaissance Miniature, op. cit., p.95.

58 Cf L. Gent, op. cit., p.29, on ‘the truth of meaning and the truth of lifelikeness’: ‘the taste for the one does not necessarily preclude the taste for the other’.

59 On coteries in English poetic culture, see Ted-Larry Pebworth, “John Donne, Coterie Poetry, and the Text as Performance.” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, vol. 29, no. 1, 1989, p. 61–75, esp p.62-65; Cyndia Susan Clegg, Shakespeare’s Reading Audiences, Book 1, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2017, esp. ch. 2; Will Bowers, Hannah Leah Crummé, eds., Re-evaluating the Literary Coterie 1580-1830: From Sidney to Blackwood’s, London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

60 See Catharine MacLeod et al, op. cit., p.108-109, no.29.

61 C. MacLeod et al, op. cit., p.172-173, no.64 and p.106-107, no.28.

62 Roy Strong, Artists of the Tudor Court: The Portrait Miniature Rediscovered 1520-1620, exh. cat., London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1983, p.112, no.172.

63 Abraham Fraunce, c.1590, Symbolicae Philosophiae Liber Quartus et Ultimus, ed. John Manning trans. Estelle Haan, AMS Studies in the Emblem 7, New York, AMS Press, 1991, p.10-11: ‘Duo sunt in omni simbolo percipue consideranda. Brevitas et perspicuitas.’

64 Ibid.

65 Ibid, p.6-7: ‘Qui primus ergo Simbolum excogitauit voluit nimirum hac ratione implicatam animi notionem evoluere, eamque vel dominae vel amicis vel alijs intuentibus ostendere’.

66 See above, n.16.

67 Enargeia was often associated with painted imagery in rhetorical handbooks, e.g. Desiderius Erasmus, De Copia (1514), in Collected Works of Erasmus transl. Betty Knott, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1978, p.577: ‘The fifth method of enrichment primarily involves enargeia ... instead of setting out the subject in bare simplicity, we fill in the colours and set it up like a picture to look at, so that we seem to have painted the scene rather than described it, and the reader seems to have seen rather than read’: ‘Quinta locupletandi ratio videtur potissimum ad enargeian, ... rem non simpliciter exponemus, sed ceu coloribus expressam, in tabula spectandam proponemus, ut nos depinxisse, non narasse, lector spectasse, non legisse videatur.’

68 Orlin, op. cit. p.264.

69 Samuel Daniel, The Worthy Tracte of Paulus Iouius, London, 1585, sig.B3v.

70 Letter from Henry Wotton to Edmund Bacon, March 1613, printed in Reliquae Wottonianae: or, a Collection of Lives, Letters, Poems, London, 1672, 3rd ed., p.405-406.

71 J. Melville, op. cit., p.122.

72 Letter from Sir Henry Unton to Elizabeth I, dated 3 February 1596, ed. W. Murdin, op. cit., p. 718. For discussion of the word ‘importunity’ in other Elizabethan contexts, see Susan Frye, op. cit., p.108-109.

73 Edmond Lodge, Illustrations of British History, Biography and Manners, vol. 3, London, 1791, p.146-147.

74 See C. Macleod, op. cit., p.24; also Katherine Duncan-Jones, ‘”Preserved Dainties”: late Elizabethan Poems by Sir Robert Cecil and the Earl of Clanricarde’, Bodleian Library Record, vol.14, no.2, April 1992, p.136–44 and Joshua Eckhardt, ‘”From a Seruant of Diana' to the Libellers of Robert Cecil”: The Transmission of Songs Written for Queen Elizabeth I,’ in Elizabeth I and the Culture of Writing, ed. Peter Beal and Grace Ioppolo, London, British Library, 2007, p. 115-131.

75 C. Macleod, op. cit., p.22; M. Leslie, art. cit., p.24.

76 C. Macleod, op. cit., p.22.

77 William Shakespeare, Hamlet (Folio I, 1623), Internet Shakespeare Editions https://internetshakespeare.uvic.ca/doc/Ham_Q2/scene/3.4/index.html (last accessed 10 November 2018).

78 The pun on ‘Moore’ at the end of this quotation, contrasting with Hamlet’s ‘faire’ father, may suggest that their virtues are connected to their relative colouring, or even race.

79 It has been suggested that Shakespeare’s Sonnet 16 refers to Hilliard’s portrait (1594) of Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton (Fitzwilliam Museum PDP 3856), which was painted round the same time as Shakespeare dedicated Venus and Adonis (1593) and The Rape of Lucrece (1594) to the Earl. Mary Edmond, Hilliard and Oliver: The Lives and Works of the Two Great Miniaturists, London, Robert Hale Ltd., 1983, p.95-96.

80 A. Fraunce, Symbolicae Philosophiae, ed. cit., p.6-7: ‘Anima est ipsa utoris si ita loqui liceat intentio institutum, propositus, sensus et significatio...’

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1 Nicholas Hilliard, ‘Mary Herbert, Countess of Pembroke (1561-1621)’, c.1590, watercolour and bodycolour with gold, on vellum laid on card, 54mm diameter. National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG 5994.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/episteme/docannexe/image/5292/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 664k
Titre Figure 2 Detail of Figure 1.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/episteme/docannexe/image/5292/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 68k
Titre Figure 3 Nicholas Hilliard, ‘Francis Bacon later Baron Verulam and Viscount St Alban (1561-1626)’, 1578, watercolour and bodycolour with gold on vellum laid on card, 60x47mm, National Portrait Gallery (NPG 6761)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/episteme/docannexe/image/5292/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 660k
Titre Figure 4 Detail of Figure 3.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/episteme/docannexe/image/5292/img-4.png
Fichier image/png, 1,4M
Titre Figure 5 Nicholas Hilliard, ‘Young Man Among Roses’, c.1587, watercolour and bodycolour with gold and silver on vellum laid on card, 135x73mm. Victoria and Albert Museum, London (P.163-1910).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/episteme/docannexe/image/5292/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 260k
Titre Figure 6 Nicholas Hilliard, ‘Unknown Man Against a Background of Flames’, c.1600, watercolour on vellum laid on card, 69mm x 54mm. Victoria and Albert Museum, London (P.5-1917).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/episteme/docannexe/image/5292/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 519k
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Christina Faraday, « “it seemeth to be the thing itsefe”: Directness and Intimacy in Nicholas Hilliard’s Portrait Miniatures »Études Épistémè [En ligne], 36 | 2019, mis en ligne le 01 mai 2020, consulté le 11 juillet 2020. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/episteme/5292; DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/episteme.5292

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Auteur

Christina Faraday

Christina Faraday is an Affiliated Lecturer in History of Art at the University of Cambridge, and an AHRC/BBC New Generation Thinker 2019. She completed her AHRC-funded PhD at the University of Cambridge in 2019, researching the concept of ‘liveliness’ or vividness in post-Reformation English art, focusing on parallels between rhetorical and poetic theory and visual art. With support from the AHRC she also worked part-time as Curatorial Intern at the National Portrait Gallery, London, on the exhibition Elizabethan Treasures: Miniatures by Hilliard and Oliver (21 Feb 2019 – 19 May 2019). As a New Generation Thinker she has made several appearances on BBC Radio 3, and has also published widely, both scholarly and popular publications.

Select Bibliography:
‘Tudor Time Machines: Clocks and Watches in British Portraits, c.1530-c.1630’, Renaissance Studies vol. 33, no. 2 (2019) p.239-266.
Portrait Miniatures by Hilliard and Oliver’, Apollo CLXXXIX, no.673 (March 2019) p.134-139.
Nine catalogue entries including ‘Young Man Among Roses’; ‘George Clifford, Earl of Cumberland’; ‘Christopher Hatton’ in C Macleod, Elizabethan Treasures: Miniatures by Hilliard and Oliver (National Portrait Gallery, exh. cat. 2019)
(as Christina Farley), Guide to St Vincent's Parish Church, Caythorpe, Lincolnshire, (Heritage Lincolnshire, 2017) ISBN: 9780948639678. Winner of the Society for Lincolnshire History and Archaeology's Flora Murray Award for Excellence, 2017.

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