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James I (1566-1625)


RCIN 420039

James I proved a stalwart patron of Nicholas Hilliard, supporting his role as Court Limner, and in 1617, towards the end of the artist's life, granting a patent that gave 'our well-beloved servant Nicholas Hilliard, gentleman, our principal drawer for the small portraits and embosser of our medallions of gold' a monopoly for twelve years over the production of royal portraits. The portrait miniature must have proved the ideal art form for distributing to loyal supporters as James I established the credentials of the new Stuart dynasty. His grant of this monopoly to Hilliard was therefore perhaps a recognition of the service that Hilliard had rendered throughout James's reign in the production of numerous portrait miniatures of the king, which have been categorised into three broad portrait types. The present miniature shares the characteristics of miniatures in the second of these groups, depicting the king in middle-age, wearing a lavender-coloured doublet and the Garter badge on a blue ribbon at his neck. James I is presented closer to the viewer than miniatures from the earlier type (see for example, 420047: Royal Collection) and is set against a red curtain background painted using the wet-in-wet technique. The distinctive doublet appears to match the description of the king's costume in a miniature described by Abraham van der Doort, Surveyor of Pictures to Charles I, in his catalogue of the miniatures in Charles I's collection (1639/40). He records: 'king James of famous memory Picture wthout [sic] a hatt in a bone lac'd falling band in a Lavender Cloth suite' which was 'Don by old Hilliard Bought by yor Matie'. Further possible descriptions of a miniature of this kind can be traced through the inventories of Charles II, James II and William III. There is a discrepancy between the size given by Van der Doort and the dimensions of the present miniature, but it remains possible that this is the work bought by Charles I for his collection.

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