Art in Context | Tracing the developments in miniature painting through the YCBA’s collection

Free admission
About this program

Portrait miniatures have long since been considered to be a uniquely British art form due to the enduring popularity they experienced in Britain between the sixteenth century and the advent of photography. Against the backdrop of considerable aesthetic changes in the early to mid-seventeenth century, the art form stayed fashionable, adapting to new tastes within portraiture while maintaining ties to what was perceived to be a traditional British practice. This talk traces the technical and stylistic changes in portrait miniature painting between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, using the YCBA’s extensive collection of miniatures by artists such as Lucas Horenbout, Nicholas Hilliard, Isaac Oliver, Peter Oliver, John Hoskins and Samuel Cooper, alongside treatises on how to make miniatures from the period.

About Sophie Rhodes

Sophie is a PhD candidate in the history of art at the University of Cambridge, where she is working on her thesis, “Peter Oliver and the Miniature in Stuart England,” as part of a collaborative doctoral award with the National Portrait Gallery in London. Her research aims to provide the first in-depth investigation into the miniaturist Peter Oliver (ca. 1589–1647) and will include a catalogue raisonné of his portrait miniatures, cabinet miniatures, and drawings. Her thesis situates Oliver within the cultural and social context of his period and considers topics such as knowledge and artistic transfer within the Huguenot and immigrant artist community; the activities of prominent collectors of the period, such as Thomas Howard, fourteenth Earl of Arundel, and the “Academy” at his house; the reception of copies during this period; and the position of the portrait miniature in Stuart culture. At the YCBA, Sophie will be working on the catalogue of Oliver’s works and looking at objects in the collection by Oliver and his contemporaries, as well as treatises and artist’s manuals from the period.

Art in Context

Presented by faculty, staff, student guides, and visiting scholars, these gallery talks focus on a particular work of art in the museum’s collections or special exhibitions through an in-depth look at its style, subject matter, technique, or time period.

Top image
Isaac Oliver, Dudley North, third Baron North (1581–1666), ca. 1609, gouache and gold on vellum laid onto card, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection