Thursday, July 03, 2008


So there's portrait painting in the style of the renaissance (pick one: holbein, clouet, hilliard, anon?), and then there's limning, an art all itself. In studying Nicholas Hilliard's miniatures, one notices a couple things. Predominantly, there are almost no shadows on the face. The faces are very pale, and the costumes intricately painted, but with very little shading. Hilliard's miniatures were painted with watercolor on vellum, and although they seem very simple, they are not! This little painting is my first attempt at painting in Hilliard's style--that is, limning and not painting. It is for the purpose of placing in a tiny frame, and isn't just a painting shrunk down to fit.

L'Elizabeth R. introduced miniatures as a new product last weekend, at the Fair Oaks Tudor Fayre. They were very popular, and we nearly sold out of them in the first hour! Many people asked if I would be making more, and gave excellent suggestions as to who should be in them (Raleigh, Leceister, The Wives, and particular portraits of Bess...pelican and phoenix). Others inquired about having custom miniatures done, so this is my practice piece to see if it's even feasible.

The nice thing is that the lighting is so simplified that this kind of painting doesn't require a lot of time adjusting, rendering, and darkening up values. There are set rules to limning, as outlined in Hilliard's "Treatise on Limning" (or some such title), which I think will make these custom portraits quick and easy to produce. It's a lot like drawing and coloring :-). This doesn't look much like my mother, but that's another thing abouut these little renaissance portraits--they were painted to flatter the sitter, so wrinkles and signs of aging were OUT. There are some incredible portraits of Elizabeth, painted in 1599, the year before her death, in which she is as youthful and wrinkle-free as her portraits from 1560. It's a fine line to walk...this doesn't look like Mom, but if Mom wanted a completely accurate representation, she'd take a photograph.
I like to say: Cameras add 10 pounds and 10 years; Paintings take away 10 pounds and 10 years. :-)