About this artwork

This miniature has been the subject of much discussion regarding the identity of the sitter. It is now largely considered to be a portrait of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex. Devereux rose to prominence at the Court of Queen Elizabeth I and by 1588 had succeeded Sir Walter Raleigh as the Queen’s favourite. However, following his unsuccessful effort to crush the rebellious army of the Earl of Tyrone in 1599, which resulted in his removal from office, he attempted to raise a rebellion against Elizabeth’s counsellors. He was tried for treason and executed in 1601. With clear lighting and an elegant line this miniature is an excellent example of Hilliard’s mature work. The bold colouring of ultramarine blue and gold give the piece a rich, courtly appeal.

Nicholas Hilliard

Nicholas Hilliard