Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Elizabeth Goldring's "Nicholas Hilliard"

Elizabeth Goldring is an honorary associate professor at the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance at the University of Warwick and a fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Nicholas Hilliard: Life of an Artist, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Nicholas Hilliard: Life of an Artist comes about a third of the way through the book in a pivotal chapter which tells how Hilliard, after completing his apprenticeship as a goldsmith, branched out into painting, catching the eye first of Queen Elizabeth’s favourite, the Earl of Leicester, and then of the Virgin Queen herself – after which, he never looked back. From 1571, when the twenty-four year old Hilliard portrayed Elizabeth for the first time, until 1619, when he died, Hilliard’s exquisitely detailed portrait miniatures were rarely, if ever, out of fashion. For nearly fifty years, virtually everybody who was anybody in England sat to Hilliard. Although page 99 is unusual in having no illustrations – the book has more than 250 colour images, so most pages feature at least one – its discussion of Hilliard’s workshop, which included both goldsmiths and painters, a number of whom were Protestant refugees from Catholic Europe, touches on themes which reverberate across the work as a whole. The movement of people and ideas between England and Continental Europe – often in response to the religious schisms of the age – is a constant. So, too, is Hilliard’s uneasy relationship, once he found fame as a royal portrait painter, with his fellow goldsmiths. In the early years of Hilliard’s career, as discussed on page 99, the Goldsmiths’ Company of London was always ready to bend the rules for him on account of his royal connections and exceptional talent. So, in 1573, Hilliard found himself jumping the queue for a Company-owned house-cum-workshop in the heart of London’s goldsmiths’ district – something for which many, much more senior, members of the Company would have given their eye-teeth. But this special treatment, coupled with Hilliard’s habit of ‘standinge to[o] muche vppon his reputacion’, sowed the seeds of much future discord and litigation between Hilliard and his fellow goldsmiths.
Learn more about Nicholas Hilliard: Life of an Artist at the Yale University Press website.

My Book, The Movie: Nicholas Hilliard: Life of an Artist.

--Marshal Zeringue