Mary Herbert, Countess of Pembroke

1 portrait by Nicholas Hilliard

Mary Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, by Nicholas Hilliard, circa 1590 - NPG 5994 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Mary Herbert, Countess of Pembroke

by Nicholas Hilliard
watercolour on vellum, circa 1590
2 1/2 in. x 2 1/2 in. (65 mm x 65 mm) frame size; 2 1/8 in. (54 mm) diameter
Accepted in lieu of tax by H.M. Government and allocated to the Gallery, 1988
Primary Collection
NPG 5994


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  • Nicholas Hilliard (1547-1619), Miniature painter. Artist associated with 34 portraits.

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It was at Mary Sidney's suggestion that her brother Philip wrote his celebrated Arcadia. She worked together with her brother on a metrical translation of the Psalms, and after his death took under her protection many of the writers to whom he acted as patron. In this portrait by Hilliard, Mary appears to be wearing an unusual necklace, the white beads of which are dotted with black. The necklace is in fact a string of pearls. It was Hilliard's practice to paint pearls with burnished silver highlights and over time the silver has oxidised and turned black.

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