V63: Georgian Miniature Portraits

Mrs Oakeley, by John Smart, 1780s

Happy Saturday! Here are a few 18th century miniatures, a lovely little (literally) art form that began life in the 16th century, and was known as “limning,” a term that originally had to do with the paintin of medieval manuscripts, but broadened out into the wider definition of “ornamental painting.”  Limners, such as Nicholas Hilliard, were the illustrators of yesteryear.
Miniature portraits of loved ones were extremely popular among the upper class, those who could afford them, especially if your loved one was Queen Elizabeth, who was known to gift her favorites fabulous little likenesses of herself…but the receiver had to pay for the cost of the jewel-encrusted frames we so often see these portraits in today!

Miniatures remained popular through the 19th century, and were worn often worn pinned to the chest, over the heart (of course!).  Think of them as the historical Facebook relationship status. 🙂


King George III and Queen Charlotte set in a double-sided pendant, English School, circa 1770. More Info Via 
V&A: Unknown woman, John Smart, 1779
V&A: Unknown woman, Richard Cosway, 1775
A young lady, American School, circa 1790  Via
A young lady by Andrew Plimer, circa 1790  Via
V&A: Unknown woman, French, 1770s, Pierre Adolphe Hall 
Princess Marie-Adelaide of Savoy, Duchess of Burgundy, French School, on vellum, circa 1711.  Via
V&A: Unknown woman, English, 1760, Luke Sullivan 


  • MrsC (Maryanne)

    March 3, 2012 at 8:54 PM

    The last one looks so much like Christina Ricci playing Wednesday in the Addams Family movie! I love the idea of them being Facebook statuses. we never really chage do we, just the means we employ changes 🙂

  • Unknown

    March 3, 2012 at 9:28 PM

    I see them more as photos Pre the camera, the only way you could have a family or lovers likeness was with these miniatures. They are so delicate and beautiful!

  • Anonymous

    March 4, 2012 at 1:13 AM

    I love miniatures, they are so cute.

    You are artsy, aren't you? Have you ever tried to paint your own?

    I've actually tried (even if I'm not the greatest artist) to make my own portrait miniature (Gustaf III of Sweden), but I've failed so far. They turn out too big and I'm sure I will never get it right. (I got one miniature of the king – probalby from the 20th/21th century – but that one is mounted in a big, square frame.)

  • Sandra Brake

    March 4, 2012 at 2:40 AM

    Number three – the Unknown by John Smart has long been a favourite of mine.
    I've been thinking of making her face into a bracelet or a brooch. Ah so many projects so little time. Thanks for this lovely post. I love looking at miniatures and portraits.

  • Anonymous

    March 4, 2012 at 2:16 PM

    I'm with a Traveller in Time…that woman is lovely (and looks like she is nice too). If she really looked like that, she had her pick of husbands! The painting itself is well done.

  • Tricia

    March 5, 2012 at 12:24 AM

    Starting with the one by John Smart and the next one, I love the hair, there is alot of detail in such a small painting.

  • Kitty MacDowell

    April 10, 2012 at 9:17 PM

    These are so darling! I'll have to try my hand at making one of these some day- it'd be handsome for a lady to have one of her husband!


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