February 2013 - Collecting and new publications

New research material about miniature portraits continues to be published. This is welcome for a section of art which was largely overlooked from the start of World War I in 1914 until around the year 2000. As with any area of collecting one needs to 'fall in love' with the subject. I am often contacted by new collectors seeking advice, usually by way of an accidental acquisition or an inheritance, who then express a fascination with the subject.

As 'love' for the skill of the artist and the history develops, one seeks to know more about the subject. In many other areas of collecting, stamps, coins, porcelain, books, prints, toys, dolls, and 'collectibles' multiple copies were made of each item. It has therefore been possible for dedicated collectors to prepare catalogues, such as Stanley Gibbon's or Scott's postage stamp catalogues. These catalogues then become 'checklists' for serious collectors, endeavouring to collect; first one of each item listed, then a better example, then unusual variations etc. That requires a great deal of time and study, with new research sometimes resulting in additions or variations to existing catalogues.

That kind of collecting is not possible with miniature portraits as, leaving aside the question of decorative copies, every miniature is an original and unique portrait. Hence technical and minute variations of watermark, colour, paper, printer, postmark, and perforation are absent. As a result, collecting miniatures is quite different. Yes there are dictionaries of artists, but there is no catalogue of individual works; hence new research is directed instead towards the history of the artist and the sitter. In effect research into miniature portraits becomes broader and broader as the history of the artists and sitter is investigated, instead of more and more minute study looking for tiny variations. Three people who are kindly making new research available are as follows.

Chiara Pariso
A recent publication written in Italian is by Chiara Pariso. It is about the Italian artist Ferdinando Quaglia (1780-1853), from Piacenza to Paris. It is of 104 pages with illustrations in black and white and some full colour reproductions. ISB 9788896225417  Art historian Dr. Chiara Parisio’s research interests focus on paintings from the Renaissance to Neoclassicism in Northern Italy. Since 1997 she has specialised in portrait miniatures. This volume is the first monograph on Ferdinando Quaglia, a little known but ingenious Italian artist nowdays underappreciated in his home country, but of international renown during his lifetime. He was born in Piacenza in 1780 and later moved to Florence.

Quaglia was first documented in Paris in 1805, where he lived and worked for the rest of his life.
Hhe became the favoured miniaturist of the Empress Josephine, as well as of various members of the Napoleonic court, diplomats and other artists; his success continued throughout the Restoration. From 1808 to 1824 he sporadically exhibited at the Salon. The majority of Quaglia’s works are in the custody of museums around the world or in prestigious private collections in Europe and America. For further details on the author and her publications, or to purchase a copy, please visit Chiara Parisio | Art historian

Eloy Martinez Lanzas
Another dedicated researcher is Eloy Martinez Lanzas who lives in Spain. His website keeps growing with interesting new research papers on a variety of artists. The articles are written in Spanish, but by using Google Translator, a good translation into English or other languages is possible. Colección miniaturas Martínez Lanzas-de las Heras - Translate this page
His most recent paper is a history of the portrait miniature in Russia. EL RETRATO MINIATURA EN LA RUSIA DEL SIGLO XVIII ... - Translate this page

The paper includes many examples of Russian miniature portraits, many from museum collections. Apart from several excellent catalogues of miniatures in Russian museums, mostly published in Russian, but with two about the Pushkin collections in English, and all published before 2000, there has been little available for collectors outside Russia. These older catalogues are now quite rare, so this new summary history of Russian miniatures is a welcome resource and available on the Internet.  Particularly, now there is a resurgence of interest in collecting Russian art by those Russian collectors living home and abroad.

Nathalie Lemoine-Bouchard
Nathalie is another researcher generous enough to share her knowledge. She is based in France and publishes a newsletter about French artists which supplements the information in her important Dictionary of French Miniature Painters. Back numbers can be viewed at Lettre de la miniature The newsletter is published in French, but regretfully when I try to use Google to translate it to English, I am advised the file is too large. Nevertheless, the newsletter can be scan read for relevant or interesting names and then translated to English in blocks. However, some information is written in English and so more readily available. A good example of this is Nathalie's paper, A few words about physionotrace - Lemoine-Bouchard Fine Arts

These three examples show the steadily increasing availability of new research for collectors.

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