HILLIARD, NICHOLAS (c. 1537-1619), the first true English miniature painter, is said to have been the son of Richard Hilliard of Exeter, high sheriff of the city and county in 1 560, by Lawrence, daughter of John Wall, goldsmith, of London, and was born probably about 1537. He was appointed goldsmith, carver and portrait painter to Queen Elizabeth, and engraved the Great Seal of England in 1 586. He was in high favour with James I. as well as with Elizabeth, and from the king received a special patent of appointment, dated the 5th of May 1617, and granting him a sole licence for the royal work for twelve years. He is believed to have been the author of an important treatise on miniature painting, now preserved in the Bodleian Library, but it seems more probable that the author of that treatise was John de Critz, Serjeant Painter to James I. It is probable, however, that the treatise was taken down from the instructions of Hilliard, for the benefit of one of his pupils, perhaps Isaac Oliver.
The esteem of his countrymen for Hilliard is testified to by Dr Donne, who in a poem called " The Storm " (i 597) praises the work of this artist. He painted a portrait of himself at the age of thirteen, and is said to have executed one of Mary queen of Scots when he was eighteen years old. He died on the 7th of January 1619, and was buried in St Martin's-in-the-Fields, Westminster, leaving by his will twenty shillings to the poor of the parish, 30 between his two sisters, some goods to his maidservant, and all the rest of his effects to his son, Lawrence Hilliard, his sole executor.
It seems to be pretty certain that he visited France, and that he is the artist alluded to in the papers of the due d'Alencon under the name of " Nicholas Belliart, peintre anglois " who was painter to this prince in 1577, receiving a stipend of 200 livres. The miniature of Mademoiselle de Sourdis, in the collection of Mr J. Pierpont Morgan, is certainly the work of Hilliard, and is dated 1577, in which year she was a maid of honour at the French Court; and other portraits which are his work are believed to represent Gabrielle d'Estrees, niece of Madame de Sourdis, la Princesse de Conde and Madame de Montgomery.
For further infprmation respecting Hilliard's sojourn in France, see the privately printed catalogue of the collection of miniatures belonging to Mr J. Pierpont Morgan, compiled by Dr G. C. Williamson. (G. C. W.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)