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Alice Brandon, Mrs Hilliard

  • Object:

    Portrait miniature

  • Place of origin:

    France (probably, painted)

  • Date:

    1578 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Hilliard, Nicholas (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour on vellum stuck to card; later stuck to a larger piece of circular card upon which the later outer band of inscription and decoration has been painted

  • Credit Line:

    Acquired through The Art Fund

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Portrait Miniatures, Room 90a, The International Music and Art Foundation Gallery, case 2

Alice Hilliard was Hilliard's first wife and the daughter of his former master, the Queen's Goldsmith, Robert Brandon. Their son Laurence also became a miniature painter, and it was probably Laurence who added the untypical encircling inscription and coats of arms as a memorial to his parents. This miniature was painted during the Hilliards' three-year stay in France, 1576-1578. Hilliard was probably influenced there by the famous chalk drawings of François Clouet, noted for their seductive ability to catch fleeting expression. On his return to England, Hilliard's portraiture, even of men, was to be characterised by a similarly sensitive quality, of which this work is typical.

Physical description

Portrait of Alice Brandon, Mrs Hilliard, head and shoulders, wearing a ruff, in a circular frame with a decorative border with inscriptions in gold.

Place of Origin

France (probably, painted)


1578 (painted)


Hilliard, Nicholas (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour on vellum stuck to card; later stuck to a larger piece of circular card upon which the later outer band of inscription and decoration has been painted

Marks and inscriptions

Inscribed above the shoulders with monogram

'Ano Dni / * AEsS. 22.'
Inscribed on either side of the head


Inscribed on the mount over the arms left of Hilliard and right of Brandon and the inscription


Height: 59 mm, Width: 57.5 mm

Object history note

Provenance: The miniature is not referred to in Laurence Hilliard’s will as are those of her husband and father-in-law (see no. 48) which supposes a different descent; it was purchased together with another Hilliard by Walter Francis, 5th Duke of Buccleuch, in 1869; thence by descent; acquired through the N.A.C.F., 1942.

Descriptive line

Portrait miniature of Alice Brandon, Mrs. Hilliard, water colour on vellum, painted by Nicholas Hilliard, 1578.

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.

Labels and date

Nicholas Hilliard 1547-1619
Alice Hilliard, born Brandom
Dated 1578

Alice was the daughter of Robert Brandom, ELizabeth I's goldsmith. Nicholas Hilliard was Brandon's apprentice from 1562 to 1569, and the couple married in 1576.
Watercolour on vellum, stuck to pasteboard
Inscribed in Latin: either side of the head 'Year of Our Lord 1578 / At the age of 22', and twice with Hilliard's monograph 'NH'; around the edge, probably by the Hilliards' son, 'Alice Brandon. Nicholar Hilliard. Painted by his hand, his first wife'
Given by the National Art Collection Fund
Museum no. P.2-1942 []

Production Note

The plants shown on Alice’s bodice seem to be a head of wheat, and a carnation. There are possibly 3 ‘flowers’ but the green one on the right is unclear. At this time wheat indicated abundance, life, fertility. This seems entirely apt. Hilliard married Alice in 1576, and according to Mary Edmond in ‘Hilliard and Oliver’ (London, 1983, p. 65-66), Alice was in France with Hilliard in 1578 (the date of this miniature) and this was probably painted before she travelled back to England across the Channel, to give birth to their first child (baptized in May) – a letter from 19th Feb 1578 to the Queen says that Hilliard himself intended to travel home soon ‘and carry his wife with him’. It seems more likely that Hilliard’s father, Richard, finally accompanied Alice home. This explains the combination of wheat and carnation, a symbol of earthly love and marriage. The miniature is a touching portrait by the husband of his young wife, about to give birth, but separated from her husband, and approaching the dangers of travel and childbirth alone. The miniature as a memento.

The decorative gold border was probably added by Laurence Hilliard, one of the sons of the artist.


Watercolour; Vellum



Subjects depicted

Woman; Lace; Ruff


Paintings; Portraits


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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