This outstanding miniature, one of the few large-scale miniatures by Oliver, was probably intended as a love token given that the sitter places her hand on her heart as in Hilliard's celebrated Young Man among Roses also at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The sitter was thought to be Frances Howard, Countess of Essex and later Countess of Somerset (1593-1632), but this identification was rejected on the grounds of costume as the woman depicted here is not wearing a Jacobean dress but that of the 1590s. Though the sitter was obviously of high rank, she remains unidentified. Along with Holbein's portrait of Mrs Pemberton it is one of the finest miniatures ever to be associated with the Art Fund.


J.West; Horace Walpole; The Earl of Derby.

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