Portrait miniatures started in 16th century Europe and was used as a method of introducing people across vast differences. The practice of painting miniatures lasted until the mid-18th century when daguerrotype portraits were first used.
For me, just the thought of miniatures being used to strike up and seal a marriage agreement is like a veritable story goldmine. It’s easy to imagine someone being painted with better features than reality. Or just before blossoming into a real beauty.
As a side note, I employed the use of a miniature in my WIP Victorian even though tintype photos were just being developed. Hey, some people are just old school, you know.
Below is a picture I took while at the Regency Revisited exhibit at the Huntington Library. Here is what it said about their collection:
” . . .18th Century Miniatures served both public and private functions. Often, the elegant gilt mounts were backed with glass, behind which a woven or braided lock of hair of the sitter’s hair would be kept, enhancing the portrait’s role as a token of affection or remembrance.”
The amount of detail used to paint the portraits was extraordinary. This miniature is watercolor on ivory and sealed with enamel. But the first miniatures were watercolors on stretched vellum in the 16th century, to vitreous enamel painted on copper in the 17th.
Here is a better image as an example of miniature portraits.
I would imagine – since it wasn’t stated in any of the sources that I’ve read nor at the exhibit that when traveling with these miniatures, they were wrapped in oil cloth or similar and tied with string to prevent scratching. At least that’s what I’m going to say in my novel. =)
Please check out the resources below for more detailed information on miniatures, how they were painted and a whole gallery of portraits to see what people of these times thought was important to portray.
Thanks for stopping by.
Katherine Cox: Regency Era: Miniature Portraits http://novembersautumn.wordpress.com/2010/05/13/regency-era-miniature-portraits/
Judy and Brian, Harden. Portrait Miniatures. Web.
“Painting Technique.” The Tansey Collection of Miniatures. Web.