(British, c. 1708)
Watercolor on vellum in a large wooden frame
Framed: 27 x 22 cm (10 5/8 x 8 11/16 in.); Unframed: 23 x 18.2 cm (9 1/16 x 7 3/16 in.)
The Edward B. Greene Collection 1940.1205
This portrait is after a well-known and frequently copied oil painting by Peter Lely; it is nearly identical but with crimson and gold drapery in place of the dressing table and mirror.
Though knowledge about his birth and training remain obscure, Nicholas Dixon is known to have been a favorite miniature painter of the English court at the close of the seventeenth century. He succeeded Samuel Cooper (1608/9–1672) as limner to King Charles II in 1673 and was Keeper of the King’s Picture Closet, for which he was granted an irregularly paid annuity of £200. Dixon painted a substantial number of ambitiously scaled miniatures—which became increasingly uncommon among practitioners of the art form when the more constrictive support of ivory supplanted vellum in the early 1700s. Dixon often signed his work with the monogram ND, and many of his large cabinet miniatures were copies of portraits, religious scenes, and mythological paintings by old masters, thirty of which formed part of the collection of the dukes of Portland. Among the characteristics of his style are ruddy flesh tones and drowsy eyes, and like the work of John Hoskins (c. 1590–1665), who may have been his teacher, Dixon favored softer modeling and diffuse lighting of his subjects, as opposed to the dramatic shadows employed by Cooper. Two lottery schemes—one in 1684/85 and the other in 1698— involving the exhibition of miniatures and the distribution of cash prizes proved disastrous for Dixon, who was in financial ruin by 1700 and constrained to sell a large number of works from the lottery.
Anne Hyde (1637–1671), the sitter in this portrait, was around the age of twenty-four when the miniature was painted. She faces right and sits upon a dull red chair before a dressing table covered with a deep red embroidered cloth or tapestry that is fringed at the edges. A mirror and open jewel box lie on a table that is in front of a dark green curtain. The sitter has gray eyes and wears a golden brown satin décolleté dress with white ruffled undersleeves ornamented with jeweled closures. A necklace of large pearls hangs around her neck, and jeweled brooches fasten a winding rope of pearls to the bodice of her gown. Her right elbow rests on the table, and her fingertips comb through her long, wavy brown hair, which falls over her shoulders to below her waist. Her left arm extends toward her knee as she lightly holds a measure of her sash under her thumb while pointing downward with her index finger. The gracefully arranged, tapered fingers indicate Restoration court refinement.
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