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An Unknown Man, aged 24

  • Object:

    Portrait miniature

  • Place of origin:

    England (painted)

  • Date:

    1572 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Hilliard, Nicholas (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour on vellum stuck to a playing card

  • Credit Line:

    Presented by Art Fund

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Portrait Miniatures, Room 90a, The International Music and Art Foundation Gallery, case 18

This portrait of an unknown man is one of a pair; the portrait of his wife is still in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch. The pictures are unusual, both in terms of traditional miniatures and Hilliard’s own work, as they are rectangular in shape and were formerly set into a diptych-style frame. This unusual format was probably the innovation of Hilliard, who was still experimenting with the miniature format at this early stage in his career. He has, however, retained the traditional way of inscribing miniatures, citing the date as ‘Ano Dni 1576’ (an abbreviation for Anno Domini, ‘in the year of our Lord’) and the age of the sitter as ‘Aetatis Sue XXIIII’ (aged 24). The face here has been retouched; the original skin tone would have been more pale.

Physical description

Portrait of a man, half-length, turned slightly to right, eyes to front, and wearing a black cap with a feather, a ruff and a pendant on a ribbon round his neck; inscriptions in gold on either side on a blue background. The vellum on which the portrait is painted is stuck onto a playing card, on the back of which is the three of hearts.

Place of Origin

England (painted)


1572 (painted)


Hilliard, Nicholas (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour on vellum stuck to a playing card

Marks and inscriptions

'AEtatis sue. XXIIII / Ano., 1572.'
Inscribed on either side of the head


Height: 60 mm, Width: 48 mm

Object history note

Provenance: Part of the collection formed by Walter Francis, 5th Duke of Buccleuch (1806-84); first recorded in 1864; purchased and presented by the N.A.C.F. 1942

Descriptive line

Portrait miniature of an unknown man, aged 24, watercolour on vellum, painted by Nicholas Hilliard, 1572.

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; Ruff; Hat; Pendant


Portraits; Paintings


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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