Self-portrait of Simon Bening, aged 75 in 1558 thumbnail 1
Self-portrait of Simon Bening, aged 75 in 1558 thumbnail 2
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Self-portrait of Simon Bening, aged 75 in 1558

Portrait Miniature
1558 (painted)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Simon Benninck never travelled to England, but his daughter was one of a small band of manuscript illuminators (illustrators) who moved from the Low Countries to London in order to work for King Henry VIII. As the invention of printing gradually made both the manuscript and its illumination redundant, illuminators drew on the tradition of secular naturalism to produce equally exquisite small portraits. Thus the techniques used by Benninck in his illuminations are no different from those used in this self-portrait. A sloping easel was used for painting both portraits and more traditional subjects, such as the Madonna and Christ Child. Both illuminators and miniaturists worked by natural light and without magnification, although Benninck’s glasses hint at the strain of such intricate work.
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read Portrait miniatures at the V&A In 1857, the year the new South Kensington Museum (now the V&A) opened to the public, the museum acquired its first portrait miniature – an image of Queen Elizabeth I by Nicholas Hilliard. The miniature, housed in an enamelled gold locket with a jewelled cover, is a rare survival as most E...
object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Watercolour on vellum laid down on card
Brief Description
Portrait miniature, watercolour on vellum, self-portrait by Simon Bening aged 75, 1558.
Physical Description
Portrait miniature of a man, depicted half-length, seated, turned to the right and looking to right, wearing a black cap and with his hands raised; in his left hand he holds a pair of spectacles; on the right is an easel, and in the background is a window with a view of a house and garden beyond; the upper corners of the painting decorated with gold spandrels; lettered in gold at the bottom.



Dimensions
  • Height: 86mm
  • Width: 58mm
  • Frame height: 183mm
  • Frame width: 155mm
  • Frame depth: 20mm (estimate)
Dimensions taken from: Strong, Roy. Artists of the Tudor Court: the Portrait Miniature Rediscovered 1520-1620.. London: The Victoria and Albert Museum, 1983.
Content description
Portrait of a man wearing a black cap, holding spectacles and seated at an easel; a window in the background.
Style
Marks and Inscriptions
'SIMÕ . BINNIK . ALEXÃDRI. F 8 / SEIPSV PIGERAT . ANO . AETATIS 75 / 1558' (Inscribed below, in gold)
Credit line
Bequeathed by George Salting
Subjects depicted
Summary
Simon Benninck never travelled to England, but his daughter was one of a small band of manuscript illuminators (illustrators) who moved from the Low Countries to London in order to work for King Henry VIII. As the invention of printing gradually made both the manuscript and its illumination redundant, illuminators drew on the tradition of secular naturalism to produce equally exquisite small portraits. Thus the techniques used by Benninck in his illuminations are no different from those used in this self-portrait. A sloping easel was used for painting both portraits and more traditional subjects, such as the Madonna and Christ Child. Both illuminators and miniaturists worked by natural light and without magnification, although Benninck’s glasses hint at the strain of such intricate work.
Bibliographic References
  • Miguel Falomir, ed. El retrato del Renacimiento Madrid: Museo Nacional del Prado, 2008. ISBN: 978-8480-155-9.
  • Strong, Roy. Artists of the Tudor Court: the Portrait Miniature Rediscovered 1520-1620.. London: The Victoria and Albert Museum, 1983. Cat. VI, p. 30. Part citation: "Two versions exist of this self-portrait, the second being in the Lehman Collection (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). Both are autographed and signed and technical examination side by side would be the only way of establishing which was the ad vivum portrait and which the repetition. Technical examination of the V&A’s version does not include the Gothic spandrels and thus must be identical with that included in a still-life painting by Frans Francken, dated 1619, now in the Rubenshuis, Antwerp (see S. Speth-Holterhoff, Les Peintres Flamandes de Cabinet d’Amateurs au XVIIe Siècle, Brussels, 1957, p. 69, pl. 9, 10). As the woodcut gradually replaced the illuminated book, illuminators had to develop other lines, of which the portrait miniature was a logical development. Benninck’s self-portrait is important evidence of this phase and he was working producing detailed portrait miniatures in the 1520’s. Benninck has depicted himself, at the age of 75, tense, tired and hermit-like seated at his work easel onto which is pinned the beginnings of a miniature of the Virgin and Child. A window gives onto a view of a house and garden. The form of the easel is of interest. Set up on a table, it is slanted at the usual angle but has a series of racks built into it at the left for holding colours and brushes.
  • pp. 86-7Colour : the art & science of illuminated manuscripts edited by Stella Panayotova ; with the assistance of Deirdre Jackson & Paola Ricciardi. London : Harvey Miller Publishers, 2016. 9781909400566
Collection
Accession Number
P.159-1910

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record createdFebruary 21, 2003
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