Highly practical was the idea of the portrait Miniature paintings, to the noble ladies of the 16th – 18th Century, and even long before this time. The equivalent if you like to the current Social Media exchange photographs sent to just about everyone we know today.
Most importantly it comes to mind the romantic capture of beautiful feminine elegance portrayed at every angle, by the specialist artists of the European Courts. They were passed between each other by many families, sometimes sent over long distances to suitors, proposing marriage for their daughters, or to celebrate major births & deaths. Another use for the Portrait Miniatures, was for soldiers and sailors to carry images of their beloved ones, while travelling the world. Some multiple-figure tiny paintings were also made to record the family gatherings. Abandoned wives kept hold of their husband’s portrait while he was at war.
In secret the Mistress sent a daring semi-nude painting to her lover, which he guarded in his watch case in a special compartment! Many hiding places must have been contrived perhaps this may be the reason many have survived the centuries turmoils. Personal mementos became our treasures.
A ladies indulgence to boost her importance would be the chance to be sitting for an Artist’s portrait painting of special quality, and to dress accordingly in her best richly decorated gown and hat, thus creating a lasting impression of herself. The end results were exquisite, delicate and very beautiful.
The frames for these artistic keep-sakes were diverse and equally imaginative even surrounded with pearls, diamonds and decorative enamel leaves. Different shapes, mainly oval were used, covered with gold leaf forming patterned or smooth outer rims. The frames were set with small hanging clips inserted at the top.
Other objects can still be found with tiny paintings, such as enamel watch cases, boudoir dressing table boxes for ring and snuff boxes.
My first encounter of these small wonders came when I saw a collection of about 20 miniatures all set on a worn black velvet cloth and framed on a wall. Later in France I have found these prints in a page of the Journal L’Illustree. They are rare and the names of the portraits are lost, unless identifiable again in the future. Now we are capturing the characters again as special keepsakes here in a modern Blog. I wonder what they would have thought about their portraits being preserved and archived in this way in 2013!
Art- The Miniaturists, used oils, but mostly watercolours on vellum then ivory and vitreous enamel painted on copper.
In France the name Jean-Baptise Jacques Augustin ( 1759-1832) is the most well known. Also Jean-Baptise Isabey (1767-1855). They painted fine portraits of Napoleon and his entire court.
From the early 1500’s portrait miniatures have been recorded in France and England.
Not forgetting a Gentleman . Here is a little one!! ——-