Nicholas Hilliard, Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland. Britain, c. 1595. FM: PD.3-1953. © Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

The garden was a space where fashionable Elizabethans could stage themselves as thinking, feeling subjects, both learned and passionate. In this portrait miniature – often given as a gift or a love-token, and worn as jewellery – Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, reclines on the grass in a posture of lovelorn abjection. Nicknamed the ‘Wizard Earl’ by his contemporaries, Percy was fascinated by alchemy, mysticism, and the occult, and the open book in this portrait hints at his scholarly pursuits. But the book has been cast aside, and Percy gazes wistfully beyond the frame of the painting, almost – but not quite – catching the eye the viewer. His beautiful lace-edged shirt, meanwhile, falls seductively open. We might speculate, then, that Percy’s thoughts here are more amorous than philosophical.