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Isaac Oliver

1 of 5 portraits of Isaac Oliver

Isaac Oliver, by Isaac Oliver, circa 1590 - NPG 4852 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Isaac Oliver

by Isaac Oliver
watercolour on vellum, circa 1590
2 1/2 in. x 2 in. (64 mm x 51 mm) oval
Purchased with help from H.M. Government, 1971
Primary Collection
NPG 4852


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  • Isaac Oliver (circa 1565-1617), Miniature painter. Sitter in 5 portraits, Artist associated with 71 portraits.

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  • Isaac Oliver (circa 1565-1617), Miniature painter. Artist associated with 71 portraits, Sitter in 5 portraits.

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A Huguenot refugee from France, Isaac Oliver came to England with his family when he was a child. His miniature painting is distinguished from that of Nicholas Hilliard by softer modelling and a much greater use of shadows. Oliver was not, it seems, favoured by Elizabeth I but after her death he was appointed miniaturist to Anne of Denmark, and later to Henry, Prince of Wales, James I's elder son. This magnificent miniature is one of two self-portraits by Oliver and once belonged to Horace Walpole, who said of it, 'The art of the master and the imitation of nature are so great in it that the largest magnifying-glass only calls out new beauties'.

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