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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
British Galleries, Room 57

Young Man among Roses

Portrait Miniature
ca. 1587 (painted)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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: see note below]

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.

Note: The interpretation of the colours worn by the sitter and the rose is now questioned (See Catharine MacLeod, 'Elizabethan Treasures. Miniatures by Hilliard and Oliver', National Portrait Gallery, London 2019 exhibition cat. no.64). The meanings of these symbols were suggested by experts such as Roy Strong, former Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, who argued on the basis of these that the young man depicted is declaring his devotion to the Queen. Comparison with portraits thought to be of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex (1566-1601) fixed the ideaa that the miniature could be of Devereux: The young man is said to be dressed in the Queen's colours of black and white. However these colours were not exclusive to the Queen. Another link to Elizabeth is the idea that the young man is surrounded by her personal flower, the eglantine rose. However, as Mary Edmond has pointed out, the eglantine has a red flower, not a white.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Watercolour on vellum stuck onto card
Brief Description
A Young Man among Roses, portrait miniature, watercolour on vellum, painted by Nicholas Hilliard, ca. 1587.
Physical Description
Portrait miniature of a young man, full length, oval, leaning against a tree among roses.
Dimensions
  • Height: 200mm (Note: Framed )
  • Width: 140mm (Note: Framed)
Dimensions taken for the mount making with its permenant frame
Content description
Portrait of a young man, full length, standing in a landscape and leaning against a tree, his right hand tucked beneath a cloak which covers his left shoulder. The sitter is surrounded by roses and foliage.
Styles
Marks and Inscriptions
'Dat / poenas laudata fides' (Inscribed above the head is a Lating motto taken from Lucan's De Bello Civili)
Credit line
Bequeathed by George Salting
Object history
COLLECTIONS: A Dutch Bourgeois family, who had owned it for several generations, sold it to Fritz Lugt, who in turn sold it to George Salting; bequeathed by him to the V&A, 1910.

Subjects depicted
Summary
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: see note below]

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.



Note: The interpretation of the colours worn by the sitter and the rose is now questioned (See Catharine MacLeod, 'Elizabethan Treasures. Miniatures by Hilliard and Oliver', National Portrait Gallery, London 2019 exhibition cat. no.64). The meanings of these symbols were suggested by experts such as Roy Strong, former Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, who argued on the basis of these that the young man depicted is declaring his devotion to the Queen. Comparison with portraits thought to be of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex (1566-1601) fixed the ideaa that the miniature could be of Devereux: The young man is said to be dressed in the Queen's colours of black and white. However these colours were not exclusive to the Queen. Another link to Elizabeth is the idea that the young man is surrounded by her personal flower, the eglantine rose. However, as Mary Edmond has pointed out, the eglantine has a red flower, not a white.
Bibliographic References
  • 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.Cat. 263, pp. 156-157. Part Citation: The most famous of all Elizabethan miniatures, a masterpiece of Hilliard’s art and the perfect evocation of Elizabethan Arcady. As the miniature has virtually no history before the present century the identity of its sitter and its meaning must, necessarily, remain speculative. [One identity has suggested has been ... Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex...] The motto, as Miss Carolyn Merion pointed out, is a half-verse from a famous speech out of Lucan’s De Bello Civili in which the eunuch Pothinus counsels Pompey’s death: Dat poenas laudata fides, dum sustinet inquit, Quos fortuna permit… Translated by Ben Jonson as: …a praised faith Is her own scourge, when it sustains their states Whom fortune hath depressed. The general drift would seem to be that faithful love and loyalty bring their own pain and suffering. The large elongated oval shape of this miniature is never repeated in Hilliard’s work and must relate to the purpose of the object, which is hardly likely to have been a jewel on this scale. Conceivably it was incorporated into an object such as a looking-glass worn at the end of a chain suspended from the waist.
  • p. 168-9
Collection
Accession Number
P.163-1910

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record createdDecember 15, 1999
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