“The miniature, the little picture that could be covered by a kiss or hidden in a palm of the hand holds an intimate and personal quality, it was a pledge of affection, often a gauge of stolen joys; it could be carried by the exiled in never so hurried a flight, could be concealed in the lid of a comfort case…”
Scribners Magazine, February 1897.
Miniature Portrait Jewellery
The definition of a miniature portrait is a painting of the subject’s head and shoulders that does not exceed five inches in height or width.
It is rumoured that the first British miniatures were produced by Lucas Horneborte for Henry VIII. For those of you who watched “The Tudors” the BBC adaptation of Henry VII and his wives, you will recall King Henry VIII possessed a locket containing a miniature of his second wife Anne Boleyn, and also that Anne discovered his affair with Lady Jane Seymour after she found her in possession of a locket containing a miniature of King Henry.
Initially these miniatures were used as currency by the British court. They were gifted to the lords and ladies in favour with the king and queen. At this time in history the miniature was a reflection of social history, only the gentry would have commissioned such a piece.
Towards late 18th and early 19th centuries the miniature became popular among the lower classes and were often commissioned the commemorate milestones in life. They became a currency of the heart. These particular pieces were often displayed in beautiful brooches, such as the item pictured, in pendants, hat pins and bangles. Men in possession of a miniature were more likely to keep them private in their pocket or a concealed pendant.
The miniature was first painted using watercolour on copper, playing cards or vellum (calf skin). By 1720 ivory was introduced as a base material. When coupled with the watercolour paint it produced wonderful light luminous colours not previously seen. The realism of the portraits was achieved using a technique of tiny, stippled dots of colour.
The breath-taking example displayed at AC Silver is in exceptional condition and is contained within an antique diamond frame. This was obviously a very treasured piece.
I tried to persuade my man that he should commission a miniature portrait of me to carry around with him. However he did remind me that I can rarely sit still long enough to take a nice photograph.
If you require any further information please do not hesitate to contact us in store or online.