November 2012 - Miniatures in London and Germany


In my last post I overlooked advising visitors of an interesting exhibition currently on in London at Philip Mould Galleries. It is too far away for me to attend, but if I had lived near London, I would certainly have gone to the viewing! Also below there is notice of a major Conference to be held in Germany on 25-27 January 2013

This first link should take you to the London exhibition, at least while it continues until 13 November 2012.
'Miniatures From The Time of Marie Antoinette' | Philip Mould ...

As is noted on the site;  
All the leading masters are represented at Philip Mould & Co’s week-long exhibition: Augustin, Dumont, Périn, Pasquier, Rouvier, Lemoine, Mosnier, Sauvage, Le Tellier, Sicardi and Vestier, to name but a few. The foreign artists who achieved fame in Paris and are therefore often regarded as belonging to the French school included Campana – an Italian, Hall – a Swede, and Sené and Thouron from Switzerland. 

Revealed through the medium of the fashionable, but private portrait miniature; the flattered officials, devoted loved ones, eccentric aggrandisers and adored children constitute a unique and unconventional exhibition of characters. Meticulously rendered and often encrusted with insignia and jewels, portrait miniatures, were popular and modish. Miniature painting peaked in terms of artistic accomplishment and popularity in the period on show - just years before the momentous collapse of the Ancien Régime. Popular too across the arts, portrait miniatures inspired playwrights, poets and authors of the day. 

The innovations of the day included painting on new materials with a variety of brushwork, widespread aristocratic patronage and emotional expressiveness of the subjects. As such, the years of Marie Antoinette’s reign are recognised as the height of miniature painting and are beautifully encapsulated in this exhibition. Visitors will delight in the refined aesthetic creations, the seductive ladies and elegant gentlemen, and immerse themselves in a time long past from this fascinating period of French history. 

For those unable to visit the exhibition at Philip Mould's the Tansey website is another place to sample the collection, see The Tansey Collection Of Miniatures ...


The conference I wanted to mention is in Germany and titled "European Portrait Miniatures". It will be held on 25-27 January 2013. The exhibition and conference is being held on the occasion of the opening of the fifth exhibition of the Tansey Collection and the publication of the accompanying catalogue; Miniatures from the time of Marie Antoinette in the Tansey Collection. The Tansey Collection is probably the pre-eminent private collection in the world today. The organizers are;
Bernd Pappe, Bern, Art Historian and Restorer
Juliane Schmieglitz-Otten, Celle, Head of the Residence Museum at Celle Castle
Gerrit Walczak, Berlin, Art Historian, Technische Universität Berlin
For more information and for registration, please contact

Details of the conference location and the full timetable are available at EUROPEAN PORTRAIT MINIATURES It is clear from the timetable that there is an outstanding range of speakers. From the timetable it appears that the conference will be in English and it appears that attendance is free for both the conference and the exhibition. Hence those interested and able to travel to the conference, should try and include it in their itineraries.

Although I have not tried to investigate the history of collecting enough to draw a firm conclusion, it seems to me that, since the year 2000, there has been a major resurgence in interest in miniature portraits (or portrait miniatures - for those who prefer that nomenclature!) so that the level of international interest is closer to that prevailing in the years around, and following, the year 1900.

This is a welcome tribute to the artists who excelled in the art, but who tended to be largely overlooked during the years 1920-2000 for wars, depressions, and a variety of other reasons. I think one reason between c1970-2000 which is now wearing off, is that many portraits were painted on ivory between 1700-1930, with ivory unfortunately becoming a 'dirty' word due to the obvious need for protection of elephants and their tusks, and thereby tainting the art-form.

Sanity is now returning with the realization that miniatures have not been painted on ivory since before World War II and hence there is no current risk to elephants. To draw a parallel, many gold, silver, and other precious items were mined using slave labour over hundreds of years. That was equally deplorable, but is not a reason to reject masterpieces made in gold and silver during the 16C to 19C.

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