Portrait of a Young Man, Probably Robert Devereux (1566–1601), Second Earl of Essex

Artist: Nicholas Hilliard (British, Exeter ca. 1547–1619 London)

Date: 1588

Medium: Vellum laid on card

Dimensions: Oval, 1 5/8 x 1 3/8 in. (40 x 33 mm)

Classification: Miniatures

Credit Line: Fletcher Fund, 1935

Accession Number: 35.89.4


The sitter, probably Robert Devereux, is almost certainly the same youth identified in Hilliard's renowned painting, Portrait of a Young Man Among Roses (London, Victoria and Albert Museum). Devereux first appeared at Elizabeth I's court in 1587 and quickly became a favorite of the queen. He launched a successful career with a victorious attack on Cádiz in 1596, and was subsequently appointed earl marshal in 1597, then made chancellor of Cambridge in 1598. Devereux met his fate when he tried to raise a rebellion against the queen and was executed as a traitor in 1601. Hilliard's portrait here features a young man aged twenty-two, as inscribed, along with the date, in gold on the edge of the painting. The style features the delicate, fine lines and intricate patterning for which Hilliard became known under the service of Queen Elizabeth.