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Portrait miniatures, painted in oil, vitreous enamel, or watercolour, were popular among the elite and middle classes until the development of photography in the mid 19th century. They were commissioned as portable keepsakes for loved ones, used as a method of introduction over distance, or worn as a sign of loyalty to the subject. The earliest examples were painted on copper or vellum but from the 1710s, watercolour on thin sheets of ivory became the standard medium
The emergence of the ‘middle sort’ in the Georgian era encouraged the market for portraiture and saw both the emergence of the professionally trained miniature artist (the trio of acknowledged masters of the genre Richard Cosway, John Smart, and Richard Crosse were all born in the 1740s) and formal recognition of the genre by the Royal Academy. With a few exceptions, the last great miniature painters were from the Victorian era.
Miniatures have been granted an exception under the UK’s proposed ivory ban. However, like so many areas of the collecting market, there is a marked financial distinction between the best examples and routine pieces that are far more price sensitive. The subject is often divided by period, artist, medium, nationality, and subject matter. Survivors from the Tudor and Stuart period are scarcer than those from later eras. Children, attractive women or named military, literary or theatrical sitters are typically more commercial than anonymous middle-aged men. The presence of an original frame is also an important component when coming to a valuation.
Sworders are to sell two artworks benefitting The Dogs Trust as part of the Modern and Contemporary sale on October 5
23 September 2021
Sworders Head of Pictures, Jane Oakley, describes the thrill of uncovering the work of an exceptional talent, Elsie Marian Henderson, Baroness de Coudenhove (1880-1967), whom before now, she knew so little about.
22 September 2021
Our upcoming Fine Interiors auction offers a magnificent single owner collection of miniatures that pay testament to the passion of their collector whose interests ranged from the 16th century to the early 19th century, from portraits of Kings to glamorous women...
6 September 2021