Nicholas Hilliard was apprenticed to goldsmith Robert Brandon, jeweller to the Queen. Besides being trained as a goldsmith, Hilliard was a limner – a painter of miniatures. He worked in Queen Elizabeth I’s court from the time he was accepted as a member of the Goldsmiths’ Company in 1570 on completion of his apprenticeship. His specialty was portraits created in watercolour on vellum (calfskin), which he would paste to a firm support such as a playing card. He would lay down the base colours before using a fine brush to add details using the technique of hatching. Hilliard did not limit himself to miniatures; he also painted full-length portraits.

The production of Japanese porcelain started in the 17th century, later than that of Korea and China. Japanese porcelain comprises of a highly exceptional white to an off-white hard paste made with ball clays and kaolin blended with silica and feldspar. Methods and ideas entered Japan all the way from China through Korea together with the methods and ways for producing pottery, Korean and Chinese designs. In the beginning, the wares used European shapes and Chinese decoration, just as done by the Chinese. Nevertheless, the innovative Japanese styles developed progressively. At present, Japanese porcelain is considered to be one of the best in quality and the finest in the world.