Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art presents Renaissance to Restoration
April 3, 2019 - March 22, 2020
The first portrait miniatures appeared in the 1520s at the French and English courts and they were particularly useful to the monarchy. Small enough to be given as gifts, they signaled a monarch’s favor when worn publicly. Take for example Nicholas Hilliard’s portrait of Queen Elizabeth’s favorite, George Cumberland, Third Earl of Clifford. He is shown in his tournament armor with the cipher of Elizabeth, two E’s back to back (seen on the front of his armor) signaling not only his role at court, but also his devotion to the Queen. The miniatures on view in this rotation from some of the period’s finest artists reveal an early approach to the figure in what would become the predecessor to the selfie some 500 years later.