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Painted Gems. The Color Worlds of Portrait Miniature Painting in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Britain

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It has been argued persuasively that we should see the art of the portrait miniaturist as being closely related to the art of the goldsmith – with the painted ‘jewel’ of the portrait set into a richly ornamented piece of jewelry. Indeed, there is a close affinity between Nicholas Hilliard’s art of portrait miniature painting and goldsmithery. His Treatise’s famous section devoted to precious stones reflects this idea, as it is concerned with the relationship of those stones to the colors used in the miniatures, colors that can be seen as surrogates for the stones themselves. Color, light and shadow – these three aspects of how to render the natural world into paint are closely related: it is the complexity of the relationship that demanded a painting technique that took care not to create chia­roscuro-effects and specifically not let color be ‘corrupted’ by shadows or ‘mixed’ with other colors.

Affiliations: 1: University of Konstanz, Germany


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