Nicholas Hilliard Life of an Artist Elizabeth Goldring

The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art
Publication date:
12 Feb 2019
Yale University Press
352 pages: 279 x 197mm
250 color illus.

This illustrated biography follows Nicholas Hilliard’s long and remarkable life (c. 1547–1619) from the West Country to the heart of the Elizabethan and Jacobean courts. It showcases new archival research and stunning images, many reproduced in color for the first time. Hilliard’s portraits—some no larger than a watch-face—have decisively shaped perceptions of the appearances and personalities of many key figures in one of the most exciting, if volatile, periods in British history. His sitters included Elizabeth I, James I, and Mary, Queen of Scots; explorers Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh; and members of the emerging middle class from which he himself hailed. Hilliard counted the Medici, the Valois, the Habsburgs, and the Bourbons among his Continental European patrons and admirers. Published to mark the 400th anniversary of Hilliard’s death, this is the definitive biography of one of Britain’s most notable artists.

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For a Telegraph article on this book, please click here

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.

“Elizabeth Goldring’s illustrated biography Nicholas Hilliard: Life of an Artist, published to coincide with a major centenary exhibition, tells his story with all the flair of her last book, an examination of the flamboyant and (for his day) selfie-loving Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester” —Suzi Feay, Financial Times

“Before you book your tickets [to the National Portrait Gallery’s Hilliard retrospective], read Elizabeth Goldring’s sumptuous survey Nicholas Hilliard: Life of an Artist. Goldring, whose previous book Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and the World of Elizabethan Art, considered portraiture and patronage, has a fine, incisive eye. This is a scholarly book … but full of insight and courtly intrigue. [. . .] Goldring gives the bones of Hilliard’s biography [. . .] and his turbulent times [. . .] but more than that she encourages you to really look. [. . .]The close-up photographs of jewels and lace are a revelation.” – Laura Freeman, The Times

“Richly detailed and illuminating [. . .] If Hans Holbein fixed the appearance of Henry VIII’s court for the ages, it is Nicholas Hilliard who performed that service for Henry’s daughter, Elizabeth. His exquisite portrait miniatures captured not just her transition from youthful monarch to Virgin Queen to Gloriana but the constellation of her court. [. . .] for those sittings he would stare at the royal visage for hours from mere feet away. Perhaps no one else ever looked at her so intently. Goldring’s fascinating and beautifully produced book allows us to do something similar with the limner himself.” – Michael Prodger, The Sunday Times

“Goldring’s engaging account of his life, character and artistic methods, supported by gorgeous illustrations and illuminating new archival discoveries, makes for a wonderful book, at once authoritative and full of pleasures.” —Helen Hackett, Literary Review

"This is a book I have long been waiting for, the first fully documented biography of Nicholas Hilliard setting him within the political, social and cultural worlds of his age. It will long remain the definitive work."—Roy Strong