Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Little Something!

I love to take pictures. In fact, among those I know, I've been dubbed the "family photographer". I like to record the events I share with family and friends, to savor over at a later date and reminisce, or to give as gifts at year end. One way, before the camera, to enjoy "pictures" of loved ones was through the development of the PORTRAIT MINIATURE. Though the idea was conceived in 16th Century Europe, these little likenesses flourished by the 18th Century. Originally, they were painted with vitreous enamel or watercolors on vellum or copper. Later, in the 18th Century, ivory was introduced. One of the noted early artists was Nicholas Hilliard (1547-1619), English. See his lady with veil below. It's SO elaborate, and it's probably only about 1" x 1-1/2"!
Portrait miniatures were particularly valuable in introducing people at a distance to one another (a kind of 18th Century Match.com). Soldiers and sailors often carried one with them when travelling, as well as kept by those they left behind as a remembrance. They were often worn as pieces of jewelry, or an ornament to a snuff box, watch fob, etc.

Some of them have incredible detail, especially when painted by an expert in the technique. One such artist was Richard Cosway (1742-1841), shown at right, self-portrait, a contemporary of Thomas Jefferson. As you may recall, Jefferson was extremely enamored of Cosway's wife, Maria. Some of these portraits are downright luminous!

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has a beautiful and extensive collection. See the link below for examples as well as techniques:

Just above is a little treasure of a snuff box with Maria Cosway's portrait gracing the top! What a beautiful ornament she is to this delicate enamel work of art, even if it only housed that foul smokeless tobacco! At least there was no second-hand smoke to deal with in the Salon!!

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