Obelisk Art History
Themes in Art

Portrait Miniatures & Medallions

Think of them as the wallet photos of the past. Portrait miniatures were an evolution of the broader miniature illustration style used to illuminate manuscripts. Around the 1520s, in the French and English courts, tiny portraits began to replace portrait medallions in brass or silver as the business cards of the day. Where medallions could be dimensional, portrait miniatures could be colored to more evocatively depict the sitter. These tiny portraits range from just over a centimeter in height to the size of the palm of your hand, and were often encased in finely embellished lockets. For more information about portrait miniatures, check out the Victoria and Albert Museum’s history of the subject below.

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Alfred Tennyson, Thomas Woolner

Alfred Tennyson Thomas Woolner, 1856

Louise Renée de Penancoet de Keroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth, Susan Penelope Rosse

Louise Renée de Penancoet de Keroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth Susan Penelope Rosse, 1682 – 1685

Mrs. Priestman, Susan Penelope Rosse

Mrs. Priestman Susan Penelope Rosse, 1690

My Father Rosse, Susan Penelope Rosse

My Father Rosse Susan Penelope Rosse, 1677

Portrait of Alexander A. Knox, Thomas Woolner

Portrait of Alexander A. Knox Thomas Woolner, 1859

Portrait of Charles Joseph La Trobe, Thomas Woolner

Portrait of Charles Joseph La Trobe Thomas Woolner, 1853

Portrait of William Charles Wentworth, Thomas Woolner

Portrait of William Charles Wentworth Thomas Woolner, 1854

Woman, presumably a Self-portrait, Susan Penelope Rosse

Woman, presumably a Self-portrait Susan Penelope Rosse, 1680

Young Boy in Profile, Judith Leyster

Young Boy in Profile Judith Leyster, 1630

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