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Miniature Portraits

Miniature portraits are deeply intimate works of art, serving as tenderly expressed tokens of a family member, romantic interest, or friend. Before the invention of photography, these diminutive images allowed the owner to gaze upon a beloved face, often made all the more meaningful in the event of an absence due to geographical distance or death.


Miniatures were designed as moveable objects: portable mementos that could carry a person’s memory with the bearer as they moved about the world. In an indication of their highly personal importance, the images were often worn close to the body, tucked into a pocket, or strung on a necklace or bracelet. As seen in this group of examples, they were framed in luxurious materials included precious metals, leather, and lustrous fabric, protecting the image while elevating its importance. The acts of handling and looking upon such an object continually throughout the day evoke emotional responses of care, affection, and fond remembrance.

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