Power and Portraiture: painting at the court of Elizabeth I, Waddesdon Manor, Waddesdon, Near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, until 29th October 2017 (Wed-Sun)
Power and Portraiture: painting at the court of Elizabeth I is an intriguing display because it reveals these two portraits of Queen Elizabeth I and Sir Amias Paulet and makes an attribution to Nicholas Hilliard (?1547-1619) as their creator. Hilliard is of course celebrated for the exquisite miniatures executed in watercolour and vellum but documents exist that refer to his making pictures ‘in greate’ which means full-scale oil portraits. The Pelican and Phoenix portraits of Elizabeth I are thought by scholars to be examples of works he painted or was involved with.
This is arrived at by comparing the depiction of faces, jewels and lace with Hilliard miniatures but the difference in scale between the two types of work must be factored in. These two portraits, which come from a branch of the Rothschild family, share the same similarities in style and technique. However scientific analysis at the Hamilton Kerr Institute reveals that rather than being painted on Baltic oak used in England they are on French oak. Sir Amias Paulet was England’s ambassador to France between 1576-79 and during part of his posting Hilliard was part of his household. The presence of Hilliard in France and the stylistic similarities with his other known works allows these ‘in greate’ pictures to be confidently attributed to him.