Lady in masque costume; Girl aged 5. Miniatures by Oliver and Hilliard. Victoria and Albert Museum.


Only in the rather unusual area of the miniaturist did English painting produce high art: Nicholas Hilliard* and others painted elegant, tiny portraits of the kind that Hamlet and Gertrude are probably wearing in the "closet" scene*.

The first and greatest of miniaturists in England, Hilliard (1537-1619) was the son of a goldsmith and was initially trained as a jeweller. His work was much in demand, and he painted many of the nobility of Shakespeare's time.

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Look here on this picture, and on this,
The counterfeit presentment of two brothers.
(3.4.54-55)

The scene is often staged with Hamlet comparing the miniatures he and Gertrude have hanging around their necks.

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Footnotes

  1. Nicholas Hilliard

    The first and greatest of miniaturists in England, Hilliard (1537-1619) was the son of a goldsmith and was initially trained as a jeweller. His work was much in demand, and he painted many of the nobility of Shakespeare's time.

  2. Visual aids

    Look here on this picture, and on this,
    The counterfeit presentment of two brothers.
    (3.4.54-55)

    The scene is often staged with Hamlet comparing the miniatures he and Gertrude have hanging around their necks.