Art Term

Court

Court painters were artists employed by royal courts to paint portraits of the royal family and their courtiers

attributed to Nicholas Hilliard, ‘Queen Elizabeth I’ c.1575
attributed to Nicholas Hilliard
Queen Elizabeth I c.1575
Lent by the National Portrait Gallery, London 1965
Photo © Tate

Until modern times royal courts were a major focus of artistic patronage. Monarchs employed their own artists giving them titles such as ‘King’s painter’, but they are generally referred to as court painters. They could be among the most famous artists of the day. In Britain Henry VIII imported Holbein and Charles I appointed Sir Anthony van Dyck ‘Principalle Paynter in ordinary to their majesties’. Elizabeth I nurtured the first native-born genius of British art, Nicholas Hilliard. Charles I built one of the greatest royal art collections and lavishly patronised the arts in general.

Selected artworks in the collection