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Portrait miniature - An Unknown Man Aged 27
  • An Unknown Man Aged 27
    Oliver, Isaac, born 1558 - died 1617
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An Unknown Man Aged 27

  • Object:

    Portrait miniature

  • Place of origin:

    England (painted)

  • Date:

    1590 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Oliver, Isaac, born 1558 - died 1617 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour on vellum stuck onto card

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mrs Emma Joseph

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

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

Oliver could paint miniatures in the same jewel-like style as Nicholas Hilliard, but he was probably also trained in Continental art and could produce very different work, such as this miniature showing the influence of the Netherlandish print-maker Hendrik Goltzius. Inscribed on either side of the head ‘Ano Dm 1590/Aetatis Suae 27’, the sitter is thus identified as being 27 years old in the year 1590, which therefore discounts the erroneous identification on the later frame as a portrait of the essayist and statesman Sir Francis Bacon. Although the sitter remains unidentified, the miniature is still a striking example of a portrait drawn from life. By the use of a strong light cast on the man’s face from the front left, Oliver is able to manipulate shadow to create a more dramatic effect than is to be seen in Hilliard’s work of the same period.

Physical description

Portrait of a man, half-length, in an oval frame with metal spirals at top; inscriptions in gold on either side of the head. The vellum on which the portrait is painted is in two pieces, a small, separate strip having been added to the left edge by the artist.

Place of Origin

England (painted)


1590 (painted)


Oliver, Isaac, born 1558 - died 1617 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour on vellum stuck onto card

Marks and inscriptions

'Ano Dni 1590 / AEtatis Suae 27.'
Inscribed on either side of the head


Height: 54 mm, Width: 43.5 mm

Descriptive line

Portrait miniature of an unknown man aged 27, watercolour on vellum, by Isaac Oliver, 1590.

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 1941, London: HMSO, 1954.

Labels and date

Isaac Oliver About 1560-1617
Unknown Man
Dated 1590

Watercolour on vellum, stuck to pasteboard
Inscribed either side of the head in Latin 'Year of Our Lord 1590'/'At the age of 27'

Given by Mme Emma Joseph
Museum no. P.37-1941 []


Watercolour; Cardboard; Vellum



Subjects depicted

Doublet; Cloak; Man; Ruff


Portraits; Paintings


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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