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Miniature Painting

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MINIATURE PAINTING (from the Latin minium, "red leacP), a painting on a very small scale. The art has its origin in the prac tice of embellishing books, in which the prin cipal pigment used was red lead. Hence the Low Latin verb °ininiare,° to color with red lead, was applied to the art, and those who practised it came to be known as °rniniatori? MANUSCRIPTS, ILLUMINATED). The exact date of the introduction of portraits into these embellishments is difficult to ascertain. How ever, such tiny likenesses gained great favor, often engaging the effort of great artists; and eventually the word °miniature° took on a new meaning, and was applied to very small portrait paintings exclusively.

The early artists painted on vellum, and used body-colors, i.e., colors mixed with white or other opaque pigments and this was con tinued until the 17th century when thin leaves of ivory fixed on cardboard with gum were substituted. The ivory was adapted naturally to richer and more varied coloring, and trans parent colors were employed on faces and hands, while opaque colors were used for other textures. From the use of miniatures on vari ous articles such as snuff boxes, card-cases, etc., enamel came into popular favor also.

Of the earliest painters of portrait minia tures, Holbein (the younger) stands foremost in excellence. The miniatures ascribed to him are characterized by the same perfection which mark his larger portraits. He was followed in England by Nicholas Hilliard, who was the first to develop painting in miniature as an art per se. He flourished about 1547-1619, and painted chiefly on vellum. His productions show a marked adherence to manuscript form — the colors used are opaque, while gold is used for background and ornamentation. His son Lawrence improved in coloring. Isaac Oliver (about 1567-1617), his contemporary, produced some excellent work, but the best English work of the 17th century was done by Samuel Cooper (1609-72). His work is not limited by the size of his canvas, and in breadth and dignity shows the master hand. Other well-known English miniaturists were Richard Cosway (1741-1821) who produced exquisite ef fects on ivory and vellum; George Engleheart (1750-1829) ; Andrew Plimer (1763-1837) ; John Smart (1741-1811), who displays a fine treatment of texture; and Andrew Robertson (17774845) and Sir William Ross, who de veloped the so-called larger miniatures. The

revival in the 19th century brought others to the foreground.

In Germany, some of the great artists painted an occasional miniature, notably Lucas Cranach the Elder. German and Austrian miniaturists are best represented by Ismael Mengs (1688-1764), Sophie Friederike Ding linger (1736-91), Martin van Meytens, a Swede who executed his principal work at Vienna (1695-1770), and Heinrich Friedrich Fiiger (1751-1818). The 19th century revival found an able exponent in E. Bastanier at Berlin.

Italy, the home of the miniature in its orig inal meaning, produced comparatively few por trait miniaturists of note. Guilio Clovio, in the Renaissance po Sod, executed charming lit tle portraits, rich in color and vigorous and clear in their drawing. Rosalba Carrera, the 17th century painter of pastels and a native of Venice, painted imaginative delicate minktures which have few mints.

France produced numerous prominent artists in this field, especially in the 18th century. The art is said to have been introduced by Jean Clouet in the early 16th century. One of the earliest exponents of the art was Klingstet, a native of Riga, who practised in France, but he pandered too much to the decadent taste of the 18th century society to produce works of lasting value. His portraits, however, are esti mable creations. Masse also flourished at this period, his notable contemporaries being Ti baldi, Sartori, Camerata, Laine and Jean Gros. Under the sovereignty of Marie Antoinette, the art of the miniature reached its height and was promulgated by prominent artists: Vincent, La Chaussee, Mausson, Mosnier, Villers; and, greatest of all, the Swede, Hall (1783-93). The extreme finesse and vigor with which he subordinated details to the general effect won for him the title of °the Van Dyck of Miniature.° Siccardi and Fragonard continued in his style, increasing the breadth of treat ment. Dumont, Isabey, Augustin and Duchesne carried the art to a high point of perfection, during the days of the Directory and the Em pire. Their portraits of Napoleon and his court are fine and spirited examples. In enamel work, excellent miniatures were produced by Petitot (1607-91) for Louis XIV. His son carried on his work.

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