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Young Man among Roses

  • Object:

    Portrait miniature

  • Place of origin:

    England (painted)

  • Date:

    ca. 1587 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Hilliard, Nicholas (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour on vellum stuck onto card

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by George Salting

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings, Room 90, The Julie and Robert Breckman Gallery

Object Type
This portrait is perhaps the most famous of English miniatures. It epitomises the romantic Elizabethan age and is a masterpiece of miniature paintings by its greatest exponent, Nicholas Hilliard. The large elongated oval shape of this miniature was never repeated in Hilliard's work and must relate to the now unknown purpose of the object. Possibly it was incorporated into an expensive object such as a looking-glass.

Subjects Depicted
Elizabeth was the heart of government and the focus of power in England. As a woman ruler she encouraged a unique court culture, exerting her authority through elaborate rituals of courtship with her male courtiers. This role-playing reached a pitch at the Accession Day ceremonial jousts at which the Queen received the homage of her knights. Each courtier presented her with a shield bearing an 'impressa', a combination of picture and motto 'borne by noble personages.to notify some particular conceit', usually their devotion to the Queen. This culture is reflected in this portrait of a young courtier. He wears the Queen's colours, black and white, and is surrounded by the eglantine rose, a symbol of the Queen.

The Sitter
It has been suggested that this unknown young man is Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, the Queen's young favourite. At this date he was about 30 years younger than the Queen he pays homage to, hand on heart.

Physical description

Portrait miniature of a young man, full length, oval, leaning against a tree among roses.

Place of Origin

England (painted)


ca. 1587 (painted)


Hilliard, Nicholas (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour on vellum stuck onto card

Marks and inscriptions

'Dat / poenas laudata fides'
'a praised faith'
Inscribed above the head is a Lating motto taken from Lucan's De Bello Civili


Height: 200 mm, Width: 140 mm

Descriptive line

A Young Man among Roses, portrait miniature, possibly of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, watercolour on vellum, painted by Nicholas Hilliard, ca. 1587.

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

100 Great Paintings in The Victoria & Albert Museum. London: V&A, 1985. 220 p. : col. ill.
Campbell, Lorne, Miguel Falomir, Jennifer Fletcher and Luke Syson. Renaissance Faces. Van Eyck to Titian. London: National Gallery Company Limited, 2008. ISBN: 9781857094077. 304 p. : ill.
Strong, Roy. Artists of the Tudor Court: the Portrait Miniature Rediscovered 1520-1620. London: The Victoria and Albert Museum, 1983.

Labels and date

British Galleries:
This young courtier declares his devotion to the Queen with his hand on his heart. He wears her colours, black and white, and is encircled by eglantine rose (sweetbriar), also one of her symbols. The sitter and the painter would have devised the symbolism of this miniature together. [27/03/2003]


Watercolour; Vellum



Subjects depicted

Eglantine; Ruff; Landscape; Rose (flower); Cape


Paintings; Portraits; Androgyny


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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