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Portrait miniature - Richard Sackville, 3rd Earl of Dorset
  • Richard Sackville, 3rd Earl of Dorset
    Oliver, Isaac, born 1558 - died 1617
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Richard Sackville, 3rd Earl of Dorset

  • Object:

    Portrait miniature

  • Place of origin:

    England (painted)

  • Date:

    1616 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

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

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour on vellum, stuck to plain card

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by John Jones

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings, Room 90, The Julie and Robert Breckman Gallery

Object Type
The term 'miniature' is a description of a watercolour technique rather than the size of a painting. So although this painting may seem quite large, it is a miniature because it is painted in watercolour on vellum (fine animal skin). Such large miniatures are today called 'cabinet miniatures'. This is a recent term for miniatures that would have been kept in a cupboard or a room hung with other small paintings. Both spaces were then called 'cabinets'.

Richard Sackville (1590-1624) succeeded as 3rd Earl of Dorset in 1609. He married Anne Clifford, daughter of George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland. Her diary records the many extravagances that led the mortgaging of his house, Knole in Kent. Sackville was a prominent figure in the tiltyard (where a horseman with a spear would charge at a mark or person). His interest in such chivalrous pastimes is reflected in the pieces of armour on the table and floor.

Materials & Making
This is one of the biggest and most important of Isaac Oliver's large-scale miniatures. For Dorset no expense was too great. Here the painter used the three most important blue pigments: costly ultramarine (lapis lazuli) for his breeches spangled with moons and suns; blue bice (azurite) for the side curtain, pelmet and stockings; and smalt (a pigment made from cobalt-coloured glass) for the greyish curtain behind the sitter.

Physical description

Portrait miniature of a man, full-length, standing in an interior.

Place of Origin

England (painted)


1616 (painted)


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

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour on vellum, stuck to plain card

Marks and inscriptions

'Isaac. Olliuierus. fecit.; and: 1616.'
Signed, bottom right


Height: 325 mm, Width: 245 mm

Descriptive line

Portrait miniature of Richard Sackville, third Earl of Dorset, watercolour on vellum, painted by Isaac Oliver, 1616.

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.

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Richard Sackville was described as 'a man of spirit and talent, but a licentious spendthrift'. The sumptuous clothes worn here are recorded in an inventory of 1617, down to the 'paire of Roeses edged with gold and silver lace' on his shoes. The blue pigments used for this miniature would have been expensive, echoing the fabrics depicted. [27/03/2003]

Production Note

Signed and dated 1616


Watercolour; Vellum; Cardboard



Subjects depicted

Plumes; Helmet; Man; Armour; Gauntlet; Breast plate


Paintings; Portraits; Clothing


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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