The fitzwilliam museum in Cambridge

The Work

The work I have chosen is Unknown Lady by Nathaniel I. Hone (the Elder), a miniaturist that lived from 1718 - 1784. His works reflect the Renaissance era. This work is a miniature portrait done with an enamel technique. This work is currently on display at The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, UK. This portrait is of an elegant lady is posed against a dark brown background. Hone used minute dotted stipple in this painting and is an example of his mature work. A picture of the piece can be seen at:

The Artist

Nathaniel Hone was born in Dublin, Ireland on April 24, 1718. He was raised in Dublin then moved to England like many Irish artists to pursue his talents. He is known as Nathaniel Hone the Elder because there were a many members in his family that became artists including his two children and his great grand nephew who is also named Nathaniel and known as Nathaniel Hone the Younger. See to see a self-portrait. He married an heiress named Mary Earle in 1742 in York Minister. They moved and resided in London until his death in 1784. He quickly gained a reputation in London as a popular portraitist. He was a miniaturist and enamel painter. It is believed that he had to have completed an apprenticeship with a miniaturist where he acquired and learned the art of miniature painting and enamel. He also studied Renaissance art in 1750 in Italy for two years.

In 1768 he was elected one of the founders of the Royal Academy of Arts. He was the first artist to stage a show containing his own works in London. He did this to uphold his reputation after one of his works, "The Conjurer" was rejected by the Royal Academy of Arts. This work was perceived as a satirical picture of the President of the Royal Academy.

Hone was a notable collector and seller of art. He owned six pieces of work by Rembrandt. Hone also painted nine self-portraits.


This portrait is oval and is 48 mm in height and 40 mm in width. Many of Hone's enamel miniatures were painted with metallic oxides on an enamel surface over a copper base and then fired in a kiln. The detail of this particular work is listed only as an enamel technique.


Like Rembrandt, Hone has made predominant use of browns and warm colored costumes with collars and hats in his portraits.


The light is concentrated on the face and upper torso areas thus giving a feeling of elegance and prosperity.

Focal Point

The focal point of this portrait is the face of the sitter. The lighting definitely contributes to the focal point. The brown background encircles and is balanced on both sides of the sitter.


There is a feeling of depth and perspective in this work. Nathaniel Hone's use of lighting enhances the depth. He did this by having the light glisten on her nose with a slight shadow to the right and by using the light to highlight the curls in her hair.


It is said that Nathaniel Hone painted portraits of middle-class people. The use of hats, gloves, and collars I believe symbolize the sitter as a member of the higher-class.


I find Hone's works to be very innocent and clean looking considering the difficulties of the enamel technique. I believe that his use of warm colors, the costumes hat and collar make the sitter seem more elegant and prosper. Many of his miniature paintings are enamels on copper covered with glass and were set a top of snuffboxes or worn as jewelry in lockets or brooches. Several of his paintings are on display at the National Portrait Gallery in London and at the Fitzwilliam Museum.



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