Isaac Oliver (1558 - 1617)
- Sir Richard Leveson
- c. 1597 - 1600
- Gouache on vellum laid on plain card
- Image size: 5.1 x 4 cm
Frame size: 5.6 x 4.5 cm
- Sixteenth Century Gallery
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- Isaac Oliver was the son of Huguenot parents from Rouen. His father, the goldsmith Pierre Olivier, had settled in England with his family by 1568. Isaac learned miniature painting with Nicholas Hilliard, a choice which reflected the close ties between goldsmiths and miniature painters at the time. Hilliard and Oliver became the two eminent miniature painters of the period. Oliver’s career was in the ascendant throughout and he became official miniature painter to Queen Anne of Denmark in 1605, and a member of the household of Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, of whom he painted several brilliant portraits.
This miniature is typical of Oliver’s style. The sitter, Sir Richard Leveson (c.1570-1605), a naval officer during the Anglo-Spanish war (1585-1604), was knighted for his successes during the Cadiz expedition in 1596 and played an important role in 1601 fending off the Spanish attempts to land in Ireland. In 1604 Leveson was appointed Vice-Admiral of England by James I but died the following year. Around the time that Oliver painted the portrait, Leveson’s private life had changed dramatically. After his wife had become insane in 1602, he took up with a new partner, Mary Fitton, with whom he had a child in 1603.
Oliver’s portrait of Sir Richard Leveson exists in three versions, all of which seem to be autograph. The prime example, in a private collection, is identical in size to the version in the Wallace Collection but differs in some details, in particular in the rendering of Leveson’s dress.