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Man Clasping a Hand from a Cloud

  • Object:

    Portrait miniature

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1588 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Hilliard, Nicholas (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour on vellum mounted on to a plain brown card, probably a later addition

  • Credit Line:

    Transferred from the British Museum

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Portrait Miniatures, Room 90a, The International Music and Art Foundation Gallery, case 3

With its allegory of the symbolically linked hands and the mysterious motto, which still has not been satisfactorily explained, this miniature typifies the emblematic mystery encouraged by Queen Elizabeth I's Accession Day ceremonial jousts. These great public tournaments centred around the Queen receiving the homage of her young knights, each of whom presented her with a shield bearing an impresa, a combination of picture and motto ‘borne by noble personages to notify some particular conceit of their own’. In much the same way, this miniature - uniting portrait, allegorical symbol and obscure motto - becomes a single statement of the ideals and allegiances of the sitter, to be shared only with those within his intimate circle. The clasped hands are a symbol of concord and plighted faith, here presumably between the stylish young courtier and his lady. Such complex messages on portraits would have been determined by discussions between the sitter and Nicholas Hilliard, the artist.

Physical description

Portrait miniature, oval, head and shoulders, of a man clasping a hand from a cloud; inscribed with gold lettering on either side of the head.

Place of Origin

England (made)


1588 (painted)


Hilliard, Nicholas (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour on vellum mounted on to a plain brown card, probably a later addition

Marks and inscriptions

'Attici amoris ergo. / Ano. Dni. 1588'
Inscribed in gold on either side of the head


Height: 60 mm, Width: 49.5 mm

Object history note

Once owned by Hans Sloane and then transferred to the British Museum in 1754, a year after his death.

Descriptive line

Portrait miniature of a man clasping a hand from a cloud, watercolour on vellum, painted by Nicholas Hilliard, 1588.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Strong, Roy. Artists of the Tudor Court: the Portrait Miniature Rediscovered 1520-1620.. London: The Victoria and Albert Museum, 1983.
Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Engraving, Illustration and Design and Department of Paintings, Accessions 1942, London: HMSO, 1955.


Watercolour; Vellum



Subjects depicted

Man; Clouds; Emblem; Hat; Impressa


Portraits; Paintings


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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