Seeing double!

I am getting on with my commission, I promise, but I have been held up a bit by a sore neck and the fact that my new glasses, which are supposed to be all singing all dancing are giving me headaches..and the sore neck. They are varifocals, you see and I am having terrible trouble adjusting my focal length from close work to distance. You should, however see the results of my labours shortly.

A little while ago I found an interesting piece in the paper, about that most revered of 16th century artists, Nicholas Hilliard, the miniature painter. Apparently, two famous pictures of Queen Elizabeth the First, namely the Pelican and the Phoenix ( named for the jewels that the Queen is wearing in each painting ), may both be by Hilliard and one is an ( almost ) mirror image of the other. Even great artists like Hilliard were not averse to a bit of tracing paper and a pencil!

The two Hillards.. The Pelican left, and The Phoenix

It’s quite the case that even the most “compleat” artist will use any help he can get, to make the work he is doing easier or quicker.

No doubt Hilliard, working to a tight schedule, didn’t have all the time in the world to sketch and fiddle about trying to come up with a *new* idea for yet another portrait of the finicky, flattery fond, Elizabeth. By a little sleight of hand he could dash off a * new * composition by turning an old one over and changing the detail.

They do say that we can tell this is the case from analysis of the wood panelling that both pictures are painted upon. Remember at this stage, canvas was a thing of the future. The base of the painting would be tongue and grooved or jointed wood planks, which would then be smoothed with gesso a mixture of glue, plaster and horrible things you really don’t need to know about. 🙂

Both paintings are apparently, made from the wood of the same tree.

Fortunate tree.

The connection with dummy boards?

Many are mirror images of each other.

Take these two….

Girl number one

Girl number two

Both by kind permission of the owner, in the U.K.

Two early 18th century figures obviously copied one from another.

Or these two….

The Girl with whip? at an American Museum

The above kindly photographed for me by the museum or this version also 19th century in another American collection.

A second girl with whip? By kind permission of the owners.

Here we can see how a famous picture by Rembrandt has been reversed, copied and added to, in the 19th century, to make a full length dummy board. It was quite common for someone to paint the face of a patron or his wife into the work and here, though the original painting is of Maria Tripp, the dummy board has an unknown face.

Maria Tripp by yes....but not as we know her, Jim.

Maria Tripp...the real one.

So it’s quite a common thing to find.

Might it be that our famous artist or our dummy board maker might have used a device rather like a camera obscura ?

….which is a device for, amongst other things, producing an accurate image on a screen or paper, often, it is said, used by artists to transfer a design. Or even the camera lucida ?

Another famous artist, this time a 20th century one wrote a book about it….

David Hockney.

Now whether you agree with his reasonings or not…it’s an intriguing possibility. And one which I have been examining for a while now, in my study of dummy boards, puzzled, as I was by the fact that many of the ‘copies’ are and have been reversed.

For this is what the camera obscura does….it reverses things.

Does this mean the great artists of the past……. cheated!?


To round off..another nice little laddie.

Boy with posy, possibly 19th century maybe early 20th? By kind permission of the owner in the U.S.

And another….

Boy no. 2 by kind permission of the owner in the U.K.


The original…I suspect… now sadly lost.

Georgian? Probably. And the reverse.

Now we’re seeing triple.

Must take more water with it…… or maybe it’s the new glasses!


2 Responses to “Seeing double!”

  1. bonsmots Says:



  2. pastmastery Says:

    Thanks Bon….I have a lot of fun thinking up the titles of these posts!

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