May 12, 2010

Georgian Era: Miniature Portraits


These tiny portraits of the past have always fascinated me. Often as small as one inch and a half, it's amazing to note the detail the artists worked into them. It started with a sketch of the subject on paper. Like any type of portraiture, not only did the artist strive to capture an accurate likeness but catch a glimpse of the subject's personality as well. When the artist was satisfied the sketch was placed under a semi-transparent sheet of ivory or vellum to be copied.

There were two main ways in which an artist painted a miniature: broad strokes, a faster but very difficult method that required a lot of experience and dotting, easier than the former but very time consuming. Watercolor and gouche were the paints of choice. Slightly wide brushes were used for the background and clothing, full but very finely pointed brushes were for details and the skin.


Details were painting looking through a magnifying glass. The more details shown and the more carefully hands were painted, the more expensive the miniature was. A sharp metal blade or 'scraper' was used to correct areas of paint that were too thick and to add small details such as strands of hair or lace patterns. It had to be used very gently so as not to scratch the ivory. A wide wooden tool was used to lift the paint when an error was made.

When finished and dried it was usually framed onto metal pedants, leather cases, or metal circlets. Daugerrotypes and photography lead to the decline of making the miniatures.

A lovely collection be found at The Tansey Collection of Miniatures and Portrait Miniature's of British Artists. Below are a few, click to see the gallery.

MiniaturePortraits

Sources:


Judy and Brian, Harden. Portrait Miniatures. Web.
http://www.portraitminiatures.co.uk/.

"19th Century Miniature Collection." The Tansey Collection of Miniatures. Web.
http://www.miniaturen-tansey.de/en/miniatures/epoches/epoche/19


"Painting Technique." The Tansey Collection of Miniatures. Web.
http://www.miniaturen-tansey.de/en/pages/show/sid/technique>."Portrait miniature." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Web.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portrait_miniature

3 comments

Hal Stuart said...

Please could you tell me if there was another miniture portrait artist named Smart, other than John Smart, who also did miniture portraits, especially of famous Americans such as Alexander Hamilton.

Thanking you in advance!

Hal Stuart
Newtown, VA

Katherine Cox said...

Hello Hal,

I'm not aware of another miniaturist named Smart. A little research on google led me to a Charles Wilson Peale, who painted a miniature of Alexander Hamilton and PBS has a miniature of him on their site, but there's no credit as to who painted it. I only know a little bit about miniatures from my research for this post and I'm sorry that I couldn't be of more help.

Sincerely,
Katherine Cox

Regency Miniatures « Suzy Kue said...

[...] Katherine Cox: Regency Era: Miniature Portraits                                             http://novembersautumn.wordpress.com/2010/05/13/regency-era-miniature-portraits/ [...]

May 12, 2010

Georgian Era: Miniature Portraits


These tiny portraits of the past have always fascinated me. Often as small as one inch and a half, it's amazing to note the detail the artists worked into them. It started with a sketch of the subject on paper. Like any type of portraiture, not only did the artist strive to capture an accurate likeness but catch a glimpse of the subject's personality as well. When the artist was satisfied the sketch was placed under a semi-transparent sheet of ivory or vellum to be copied.

There were two main ways in which an artist painted a miniature: broad strokes, a faster but very difficult method that required a lot of experience and dotting, easier than the former but very time consuming. Watercolor and gouche were the paints of choice. Slightly wide brushes were used for the background and clothing, full but very finely pointed brushes were for details and the skin.


Details were painting looking through a magnifying glass. The more details shown and the more carefully hands were painted, the more expensive the miniature was. A sharp metal blade or 'scraper' was used to correct areas of paint that were too thick and to add small details such as strands of hair or lace patterns. It had to be used very gently so as not to scratch the ivory. A wide wooden tool was used to lift the paint when an error was made.

When finished and dried it was usually framed onto metal pedants, leather cases, or metal circlets. Daugerrotypes and photography lead to the decline of making the miniatures.

A lovely collection be found at The Tansey Collection of Miniatures and Portrait Miniature's of British Artists. Below are a few, click to see the gallery.

MiniaturePortraits

Sources:


Judy and Brian, Harden. Portrait Miniatures. Web.
http://www.portraitminiatures.co.uk/.

"19th Century Miniature Collection." The Tansey Collection of Miniatures. Web.
http://www.miniaturen-tansey.de/en/miniatures/epoches/epoche/19


"Painting Technique." The Tansey Collection of Miniatures. Web.
http://www.miniaturen-tansey.de/en/pages/show/sid/technique>."Portrait miniature." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Web.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portrait_miniature

3 comments:

Hal Stuart said...

Please could you tell me if there was another miniture portrait artist named Smart, other than John Smart, who also did miniture portraits, especially of famous Americans such as Alexander Hamilton.

Thanking you in advance!

Hal Stuart
Newtown, VA

Katherine Cox said...

Hello Hal,

I'm not aware of another miniaturist named Smart. A little research on google led me to a Charles Wilson Peale, who painted a miniature of Alexander Hamilton and PBS has a miniature of him on their site, but there's no credit as to who painted it. I only know a little bit about miniatures from my research for this post and I'm sorry that I couldn't be of more help.

Sincerely,
Katherine Cox

Regency Miniatures « Suzy Kue said...

[...] Katherine Cox: Regency Era: Miniature Portraits                                             http://novembersautumn.wordpress.com/2010/05/13/regency-era-miniature-portraits/ [...]

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