miniature painting


miniature painting
Small, detailed painting, usually a portrait, executed in watercolour on vellum (parchment), prepared card, copper, or ivory that can be held in the hand or worn as a piece of jewelry.

The name derives from the minium, or red lead, used to emphasize initial letters in medieval illuminated manuscripts. Combining the traditions of illumination and the Renaissance medal, it flourished from the early 16th to the mid-19th century. The earliest datable examples were painted in France by Jean Clouet the Younger at the court of Francis I; in England H. Holbein the Younger produced masterpieces in miniature under Henry VIII and inspired a long tradition of the practice, known as "limning." Nicholas Hilliard served as miniature painter to Elizabeth I for more than 30 years. In the 17th–18th centuries, painting in enamel on metal became popular in France. In Italy Rosalba Carriera introduced the use of ivory (с 1700) as a luminous surface for transparent pigments, stimulating a great revival of the medium in the late 18th century. By the mid-19th century miniature paintings were regarded as luxury items and rendered obsolete by the new medium of photography.

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art
also called  (16th–17th century) Limning,  

      small, finely wrought portrait executed on vellum, prepared card, copper, or ivory. The name is derived from the minium, or red lead, used by the medieval illuminators. Arising from a fusion of the separate traditions of the illuminated manuscript and the medal, miniature painting flourished from the beginning of the 16th century down to the mid-19th century.

      The portrait miniature, as a separate portrait enclosed in either a locket or a covered “portrait box,” is most plausibly traced to Flemish illuminators such as those of the Horenbout family. The earliest datable portrait miniatures, however, are not Flemish but French, and are all believed to have been painted by Jean Clouet (Clouet, Jean) at the court of Francis I. Under the patronage of King Henry VIII, Lukas Horenbout painted the first portrait miniatures recorded in England. He taught the technique to Hans Holbein (Holbein, Hans, the Younger) the Younger, who was able to put into this small-scale work all the intensity of vision and fineness of touch apparent in his easel paintings and drawings, creating masterpieces of the then-new art form that remain unsurpassed.

      Holbein inspired a long tradition of miniature painting in England. One of his pupils, Nicholas Hilliard (Hilliard, Nicholas), became the first native-born master of miniature painting in that country. He adopted the oval form, which had recently become fashionable on the continent of Europe in preference to the circular form and which remained the most popular shape until the early 19th century. Hilliard served as miniature painter to Queen Elizabeth I for more than 30 years. His chief pupil, Isaac Oliver (Oliver, Isaac), was a more technically sophisticated artist who became the chief miniaturist during the reign of King James I (1603–25). Oliver's pupil, Samuel Cooper, earned a preeminent reputation in Europe by his presentation of character and tight, effective brushwork.

      Early miniaturists had painted in watercolour and gouache (opaque watercolour) on vellum or prepared paper. The technique of painting miniatures in enamel on a metal surface was introduced in France in the 17th century and perfected by Jean Petitot (Petitot, Jean). About 1700 the Italian painter Rosalba Carriera (Carriera, Rosalba) introduced the use of ivory as a ground that could provide a luminous, glowing surface for transparent pigments and heighten their effect. This technical innovation stimulated a great revival of miniature painting in the second half of the 18th century. The chief European miniaturists of the period were Peter Adolf Hall and Niclas Lafrensen in France and Jeremiah Meyer, Richard Cosway, Ozias Humphrey, and John Smart in England.

      In the early 19th century, French miniaturists such as J.B. Isabey were influenced by the easel portraits of Jacques-Louis David. Miniature portraits continued to be painted in the following decades, but they remained an expensive luxury. Inexpensive black-and-white portraits in the new medium of photography made painted miniatures obsolete in the second half of the century.

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Universalium. 2010.

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