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Limning – the painting of miniature portraits – was an important art form in 16th-century Europe. Among its greatest practitioners was Nicholas Hilliard, who enjoyed an international reputation for his skill in crafting the finely wrought images. In Nicholas Hilliard: Life of an Artist (Yale University Press, 2019), Elizabeth Goldring explains how a young man from a family of Exeter goldsmiths became one of the premier artists of his age. Timing was a key factor, as the ascent of the Catholic Queen Mary to the throne in 1553 led the Protestant Hilliard family to decamp for the continent. Exposure to the art styles there influenced the young Hilliard, who after returning to England and completing his apprenticeship as a goldsmith quickly established himself as the foremost miniature portraitist in England. Goldring shows how both Hilliard’s technical skills and his court connections played equal roles in his prominence, over a career that led to a period at the court of the French king Henri III and lasted through Elizabeth’s death to his final years working as an artist for King James I.

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