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An Unknown Woman

  • Object:

    Portrait miniature

  • Place of origin:

    England (painted)

  • Date:

    1590-1593 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Hilliard, Nicholas (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour on vellum stuck onto a playing card

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by E. Peter Jones

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

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

Here we can see Hilliard’s close attention to costume and the impact on his miniatures of ever-changing fashions. The lady is unknown, yet she must have been a wealthy woman, judging by her heavy and elaborate jewellery, complete with necklace, chain, earrings, jewels on the front and shoulders of her dress, and a kind of aigrette in her hair. The edges of her starched ruff are also elaborately decorated with red textile ties. In an age when clothes were assumed to be an accurate indicator of status, it was judged essential to wear your wealth, especially when being immortalised in a portrait.

Physical description

Portrait miniature of a woman, head and shoulders, oval frame with a loop at top; the six of diamonds is printed on reverse of the backing sheet on which the portrait is mounted.

Place of Origin

England (painted)


1590-1593 (painted)


Hilliard, Nicholas (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour on vellum stuck onto a playing card


Height: 59 mm, Width: 47 mm

Object history note

Provenance: Mrs Wyndham Cook as Queen Elizabeth; bequeathed by E. Peter Jones 1948.

Descriptive line

Portrait miniature of an unknown woman, watercolour on vellum, painted by Nicholas Hilliard, 1590-1593.

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 & Department of Paintings, Accessions 1947, London: HMSO, 1950.


Vellum; Watercolour; Card



Subjects depicted

Woman; Jewels; Ruffs


Portraits; Paintings


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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