Friday, April 8, 2011

Tackling the portrait miniature

Queen Charlotte by Jeremiah Meyer- 1772

It kind of goes without saying that miniatures are not only way cool but extremely prevalent in the 18th century, in the latter half of which they truly enjoyed their heyday.  The problem is, no one does them nowadays.  (actually, if anyone knows of anyone in the world who paints 18th cen style miniatures, I'd love to see their work)

Painting miniatures was one of those few occupations considered genteel enough for a lady, and while a large number of professionals had a thriving business painting miniatures it was also a hobby often picked up by amateurs.  In 1712, a writer for The Spectator noted, "limning, one would think is no expensive Diversion, but... she paints fans for all her female acquaintance and draws all her relations pictures in miniature".  While Europe seems to have been more accepting of female artists in a professional capacity than America was during the 18th century, there are certainly references to ladies learning painting and drawing here during that time.  By the early 19th century a few women were working as miniature painters, and the number of female artists rapidly increased as time went on.

All of this fits perfectly with my long-standing desire to combine fine art and reenacting in an appropriate and enjoyable manner.

-First step:  Look at LOOOOTTTSSSSS of miniatures

-Second step:  Read primary documents concerning The Art of Drawing and Painting in Water-Colours, and Miniatura or the Art of Limning, etc.

-Third step:  Research tools and materials.  Try not to get too bogged down in the thrill of Artists Pigments c. 1660-1835. (No, seriously... this book is epicly awesome.  I could, and may yet, write a very long blog post on just a few snippets of info found within its pages.)

-Fourth step:  Read more about the history of portrait miniatures, or, as they were more commonly known before the mid to late 18th cen, 'limnings'.

-Last step:  Hold my breath, cross my fingers, and just paint.

(will post more later about materials, techniques, and my progress)


  1. Does this mean what I think it means?

  2. Miniatures? Faints.

  3. Katie, if you think it means that you'll actually get your miniature when I see you next, then yes, it means what you think it means. ;)

    Elizabeth- I've been toying with the idea of painting miniatures for a while now, but it's only just now become a serious interest and priority of mine. If the process goes well and results are favorable, I'll most likely take commissions and do demos at reenactments and whatnot. Whatever happens, I'll be sure to post about it all as I go!

  4. Oh...I thought it meant you had been kidnapped by gypsies and forced to work to earn your keep. How disappointing. ;)

  5. What a grand idea! This sounds very exciting. Maybe this blog could be of any interest for you:


  6. This is a good friend of mine that paints miniatures

  7. You're giving me ideas for a whole new lot of creative plans... I can't wait to see your production !