Portable Memorials: Portrait Miniatures | Art & Object

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The portrait miniatures feature details of historic lace, jewelry, ornate headdresses, royal ornaments and military insignia, all executed by the artist sometimes using a single hair as a brush. Early 16th-century miniatures were painted in watercolor on vellum (animal skin) or card stock, but in the heyday of 18th-century portrait miniatures, artists painted on thin sheets of ivory for a natural luminescence of watercolor portraits. NOMA’s collection includes miniature masters Nicholas Hilliard (English, 1547-1619), John Hoskins the Elder (English, c.1590-1665), Samuel Cooper (English, 1609-1672), Richard Cosway (British, 1742-1821) , and George Engleheart (British, 1752-1829). On display are examples of framed portraits with the sitter’s hair, finely arranged and braided, and two “lover’s eye” miniatures, capturing just an intimate close-up of the sitter’s eye, recognizable only by her dearest confidants.

A tablet produced by NOMA details the stories behind these portrait miniatures, with the stories of royalty and historical celebrities, the highly skilled craftsmanship of miniature painting, and the Latter family collection.

The NOMA facility was made possible through support from the Milton H. Latter Educational and Charitable Foundation.

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