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Portrait miniature - Venetia Stanley, Lady Digby

Venetia Stanley, Lady Digby

  • Object:

    Portrait miniature

  • Place of origin:

    Britain (probably, made)

  • Date:

    1615-1622 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Oliver, Peter (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Miniature on vellum with ivory lid and case

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased with funds from the Capt. H. B. Murray Bequest

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case RMC, shelf 9, box A []

This miniature is a particularly beautiful example of a group of portraits, evidently of the same young woman, which have been traditionally identified as being of Venetia Stanley, Lady Digby. Stanley was the childhood sweetheart of Sir Kenelm Digby, and considered to be of rare beauty and great intellect. But Digby's mother opposed the match and induced her son to go abroad in 1620. After separation and complicated misunderstandings generated by the false news of Digby's death, the couple were finally reunited and married secretly in 1625.

Stylistically this miniature, with its extreme softness and lack of linear definition to the features, would seem to be one of Oliver's later works and it is possible that it was not from life, but painted after Venetia's death in 1633. Sir Kenelm's grief was profound and his loss clearly struck a chord with his contemporaries and referenced by numerous poets including Ben Jonson. If this were a commemorative portrait it would have to be a retrospective and idealising image, a cult object which would only be loosely connected to the reality of Venetia's appearance as a mature woman. This might explain the apparent anomaly of her dress, which for the 1630s, was somewhat out of date.

Physical description

Oval portait miniature on vellum of a young girl, contained in an elliptically turned ivory lid and case.

Place of Origin

Britain (probably, made)


1615-1622 (made)


Oliver, Peter (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Miniature on vellum with ivory lid and case


Height: 64 mm, Width: 50 mm

Descriptive line

Portrait miniature on vellum of a girl, believed to be Venetia Stanley, Lady Digby, by Peter Oliver. Contained in an elliptically turned ivory lid and case. Great Britain, 1615-1622.

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

Murdoch, John. Seventeenth-century English Miniatures in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: The Stationery Office, 1997.
Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Prints and Drawings and Department of Paintings, Accessions 1950, London: HMSO, 1962.


Vellum; Ivory




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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