Esther Inglis, 1569–1624

King James VI & I – Art & Culture at the Jacobean Court

Unknown Esther Inglis, 1569 - 1624. Calligrapher and miniaturist 1595

Esther Inglis, 1569–1624. Calligrapher and miniaturist


1595, oil on panel 

Esther Inglis came to London as an infant with her Huguenot (French Protestant) parents, who had fled religious persecution in France. The family settled in Edinburgh and some years later Inglis married Bartholomew Kello, a government clerk. This portrait was painted in 1595 the year before their marriage.  

Learning her art from her mother, an accomplished teacher of handwriting, Inglis went on to become an exceptionally skilled calligrapher, writer, illustrator and embroiderer and dedicated several of her works to James and his family. She wrote in Scots, French and Latin and her manuscripts also include tiny self-portraits which promoted her authorship and talent. 

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This soundscape includes a short recording of Esther Inglis reading, in Scots, a sonnet dedicated to her by the Netherlandish calligrapher Jan Van de Velde - Sonnet to the Only Paragon, and Matcheles Mistresse of the Golden Pen. Esther Inglis (before 1607). Esther Inglis is voiced by the actor-poet Gerda Stevenson.

The recording was created as part of a collaborative project funded by the University of Edinburgh. Recording and editing by Dr James Cook (The University of Edinburgh), in collaboration with the National Galleries of Scotland, Dr Catriona Murray (The University of Edinburgh), Dr Anna Groundwater (National Museums Scotland) and Jamie Reid-Baxter. Copyright Dr James Cook.

King James VI & I – Art & Culture at the Jacobean Court

King James VI & I – Art & Culture at the Jacobean Court