Museum Monday: Portrait Miniatures at the Met

Having a miniature portrait keepsake of one’s beloved, be they paramour or monarch, became popular among the ruling class in the 16th century. As with all elite fashions, this trend trickled down the social hierarchy, so that by the 18th century, portrait miniatures were a fairly common gift until the invention of photography. Using paint or enamel, fine detail work was expressed on a variety of surfaces, such as vellum, copper, or ivory. These paintings could framed and hanged, decorate the lid of a small box, or be set into jewelry.

Hans Holbein, a making a return appearance to our blog, was one of the early miniature portrait painters, and you can view his work, along with several other fine examples, in the exhibition “In Miniature” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through the end of December 2014. Some miniatures are displayed next to full size portraits of the same person, in order show the incredible detailed paid to the tiny faces in the miniatures. 

 Victorian 18k gold and Swiss enamel dangling portrait earrings, at Gray & Davis.

Victorian 18k gold and Swiss enamel dangling portrait earrings, at Gray & Davis.

 Georgian portrait miniature pendant in 12k gold, at Gray & Davis.

Georgian portrait miniature pendant in 12k gold, at Gray & Davis.

We particularly love seeing enamel portraits set into earrings. When worn, the portraits should always face each other so that they can always keep their loved ones in sight!

For more information, visit: http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2014/in-miniature