Miniature masterpiece saved for the nation

Funding has been secured for one of the most important miniature Jacobean paintings and will remain at its home in Powis Castle, Wales.

Thanks to support from Art Fund, National Heritage Memorial Fund and the National Trust, the portrait of Edward Herbert, 1st Baron Herbert of Cherbury by Issac Oliver, will remain at its historic home after it was offered for sale by the agent Omnia Art Ltd, on behalf of a private owner.

'We are very happy to have been able to support this extraordinary miniature of an extraordinary man, which constructs a fascinating vision of courtly life in Renaissance England. It is one of the undisputed gems of the National Trust and belongs at Powis Castle, for everyone to see and enjoy.'

  • Sarah Philp
  • Director of Programmes, Art Fund

The painting has been secured in perpetuity for Wales and the nation with grants and donations including £300,000 from Art Fund. It portrays Lord Herbert, a famous poet, socialite, philosopher and statesman as a fashionable, romantic young lover, stretched out along the banks of a stream. His shield bears the inscriptions 'Magia Sympathiae' and a burning heart. He lived at Montgomery Castle and was the first cousin of Sir William Herbert, 1st Lord Powis.

It was painted between c1602-1617, by Issac Oliver, the royal miniaturist and pupil of Nicholas Hilliard. It is 230mm x 189mm in dimensions and is a watercolour on vellum, mounted on oak board in a contemporary 17th century tortoiseshell and ebony frame.

Justin Albert, National Trust director for Wales, said: 'We are so proud and honoured to be involved in the partnership that has brought about such an exceptional acquisition that is so important for Welsh, British and indeed European heritage.

'We are greatly indebted to those organisations and individuals whose generous donations have enabled us to purchase this incredible painting and keep it in the collection at Powis.'

Fiona Talbott, head of NHMF, said: 'This is an exquisite miniature which belongs in its original context of Powis Castle. There’s no doubt it’s also a star of the Powis collection, standing out for both its artistry and the colourful story it tells of Elizabethan and Jacobean court culture.'

Charles FitzRoy of Omnia Art Ltd said: 'The figure of Lord Herbert, with its connotations of chivalry and romance, possesses a poetic lyricism that places it at the pinnacle of Jacobean art.'

The painting will undergo conservation over the next few months and discussions are taking place with other organisations about loaning the artwork before it returns to Powis Castle.

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