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A Elizabethan man, called Sir Francis Drake, 1540-96

Fine art

Object connections:

Collection Fine art, Miniatures
User collections Moustaches by lucinda
Gallery locationNot on display
PeopleDepiction: Drake, Francis

Object details:

Object ID MNT0023
Description Circular miniature by Hilliard of a man with a red beard and moustache, darker hair and grey-blue eyes, and traditionally identified as Sir Francis Drake (1540-96). It was formerly in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch and is on ivory within a fine carved ivory frame. The sitter wears a predominantly black patterned doublet and white ruff. He is shown head and part shoulders only, turned half to his right against a blue background inscribed in gold 'Vive ut Vivas' (Live that you may live) and the whole is within a black border inscribed in gold 'AETATIS SUAE 42 ANNO DNI 1581'. There is also a 19th-century inscription on the reverse identifying it as Drake and a label bearing the number 1416. This apart, the grounds for believing it may be Drake are primarily the sitter's appearance: the National Portrait Gallery has a similar miniature, identified as Drake, with the same date inscription. While this is inexact it correlates with his still uncertain date of birth. This is believed to be February or March 1540, which (if done mid-year) would make the inscribed 1581 date of representation literally correct, i.e. 'in his 42nd year'. There is also no doubt of Drake's celebrity at the time, which might have prompted such representation. It was in 1581 that he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth, following his hugely lucrative, three-year anti-Spanish circumnavigation of the globe in the 'Pelican (renamed the 'Golden Hind' en route). The inscription, ‘Vive ut Vivas’ is a relatively common motto of the period but, while perhaps appropriate for an adventurer, is not one with any other known association to him. The Museum also has portrait of Drake dating from 1591, attributed to Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger (BHC2662), and allowing for difference in age that too is compatible with this miniature. The issue of identity therefore largely remains a matter of personal opinion. H. A Kennedy, in his 1917 'Studio' monograph on the Buccleuch miniatures illustrated it as 'artist unknown' and listed it only as 'school of Hilliard' (p.30).
Date made 1581

Artist/Maker Hilliard, Nicholas
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Materials watercolour; ivory
Measurements Overall: 47 mm x 47 mm x 8 mm
  • A Elizabethan man, called Sir Francis Drake, 1540-96 (MNT0023)
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