Art, Art History and Design, School of


First Advisor

Alison Stewart

Date of this Version


Document Type



Owens, Ashley. "Patronage and Portable Portraits: Early English Miniatures: 1520-1544." Master's thesis, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2019.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Art History, Under the Supervision of Professor Alison Stewart. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2019

Copyright (c) 2019 Ashley Owens


This thesis examines function and patronage of early sixteenth-century portrait miniatures by Lucas Horenbout (d. 1544) and Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/8-1543). Portrait miniatures, a unique form of portraiture emerging in the sixteenth century, have a long tradition in England, but hold an ambiguous place within art history because of their size, variety, and multifaceted function. Scholarship on the topic of early English portrait miniatures defines and discusses the tradition as it applies to the Elizabethan miniatures of Nicholas Hilliard (1547-1619), the first major English-born artist. Therefore, the miniatures prior to Hilliard have been studied as predecessors to his works but not within their own historical context. The general prevailing concept is that, as with Hilliard, the early sixteenth-century English miniatures began and remained royal objects through the second half of the century when their use expanded outside of court. This is not the case. As early as the 1530s portrait miniatures were created for a variety of patrons and uses.

This thesis strives to prove that it is possible to study miniatures based on their physical and visual properties and to remove the predominant focus on the limited textual sources. Stylistically this collection of portrait miniatures is varied and has been approached by scholarship mainly through vested interests of museum collections in terms of technical analysis and judgments of quality. Art historical scholarship has emphasized the general stylistic differences between the portrait miniatures of Lucas Horenbout and Hans Holbein the Younger, the two major court portraitists of this period. Through this interpretation, Holbein’s works are praised as the work of a Northern Renaissance master, and Horenbout’s disregarded as fixed within the old medieval style of manuscript illumination. However, this analysis of early portrait miniatures has limited the understanding of the careers and works of these two early miniaturists and their historical contexts. I will consider the stylistic differences between Lucas Horenbout and Hans Holbein the Younger as a deliberate choice that met the needs of their patrons and that their different sources of patronage had a significant impact on their approaches to portrait miniatures.

Advisor: Alison Stewart