The Portrait in Miniature....
The Portrait Miniature, as it has come to be known, may well have ended up being known as the Pocket Portrait, or something similar, for that was its purpose. The idea was being able to easily carry the likeness of someone. They were developed from the techniques used in illuminated manuscripts in the 16th century and were initially used for introduction, often showing noble or royal husband’s their prospective brides.
Then, as travel became all the more adventurous and far reaching, they became a means of keeping loved ones near. Of course like all things, as their popularity increased, so did their affordability because of the number of artists who had learnt to produce them. So, by the Napoleonic wars, it was usual for soldiers to have their likenesses taken, and young ladies to give their soldier sweethearts a token to keep with them.
While initially used in England and France the fashion spread throughout Europe and eventually the New World. As a result, a great variety of astounding masterpieces of the art were created. Materials and techniques varied from gouache on vellum, oils on copper or tin, watercolour on card or ivory, and even fired vitreous enamels.
Sadly, the invention of photography ultimately lead to the demise of the craft, and it is difficult to find any good examples of portrait miniatures being created today.
The collection of the these rare, romantic pieces in which so much effort is focused in such a small area, and which carried so much significance for the people to whom they were given is, in a world that seems obsessed with space and size, a private pleasure that we can easily enjoy without disturbing the equilibrium of modern life.