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Portrait Miniature Paintings

Portrait miniatures were the forerunner to the 3x5 photo of today. The height of their production was from roughly 1780-1820, though the first was painted in the 15th century. Miniatures were painted for members of the aristocratic classes, mostly using watercolor or gouache. Originally, miniatures were illustrations in hand-written books, but as the medium became independent of books, the earliest freestanding miniatures were still made on vellum.

Miniatures had a variety of uses. The wealthy class might adorn their clothing with a portrait miniature of the reigning monarch to demonstrate allegiance. A young woman’s parents might send a miniature of their daughter to a potential husband. A husband and wife separated by travel could keep each other’s miniature with them.

Portrait miniatures are highly collectible, and are more affordable than many other works of art because of their diminutive scale. The major auction houses occasionally have either a small selection of miniatures, or even an entire collection assembled by a single collector over many years.


Quick Facts

  • The Victorian and Albert Museum, London has a collection of portrait miniatures from several different countries. The National Museum in Stockholm also has an extensive miniatures collection, but is closed for renovations until 2018
  • "Portrait of a Lady," 1769, by John Smart, one of the leading portrait miniature artists, sold for £23,300 at Sotheby’s London on April 16, 2008
  • Bonhams London sold an undated miniature of Jane Digby, Lady Ellenborough (1807-1881) in a fashionable India green dress, for £13,750 on November 21, 2012

Recommended Items at Auction

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English Miniature Portrait
Apr 20, 9:00 AM EDT
English Miniature Portrait
by Dovetail Auctions, LLC
Est: $5- $500
$609 Bids
THREE MINIATURE PORTRAITS.
Apr 26, 10:00 AM EDT
THREE MINIATURE PORTRAITS.
by Amelia Jeffers
Est: $100- $300
$1756 Bids
ALESSANDRO CITTADINI (1820-1877) - MINIATURE "PORTRAIT OF A LADY" IN ITS BOX, SIGNED AND DATED 1847.
Apr 27, 11:00 AM CEST
ALESSANDRO CITTADINI (1820-1877) - MINIATURE "PORTRAIT OF A LADY" IN ITS BOX, SIGNED AND DATED 1847.
by Goldfield Auction
Est: €75- €150
€5005 Bids
Gilt framed 19th century miniature, 38cm x 27cm
Apr 24, 4:00 PM AEST
Gilt framed 19th century miniature, 38cm x 27cm
by Lawsons
Est: AUD2,000- AUD3,000
AUD254 Bids
Portrait Miniature Depicting Benjamin Franklin
Apr 21, 10:00 AM EDT
Portrait Miniature Depicting Benjamin Franklin
by Devin Moisan Auctioneers, Inc.
Est: $500- $700
$3253 Bids
Three miniature portraits, largest frame 15cm x 12cm
Apr 21, 7:00 PM AEST
Three miniature portraits, largest frame 15cm x 12cm
by Lawsons
Est: AUD80- AUD120
AUD453 Bids
Portrait Miniature of a Naval Officer
Apr 21, 10:00 AM EDT
Portrait Miniature of a Naval Officer
by Devin Moisan Auctioneers, Inc.
Est: $300- $500
$1752 Bids
Two Portrait Miniatures
Apr 21, 10:00 AM EDT
Two Portrait Miniatures
by Devin Moisan Auctioneers, Inc.
Est: $200- $400
$1502 Bids
ALESSANDRO CITTADINI (1820-1877) - MINIATURE "PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG LADY" IN ITS BOX, SIGNED AND DATED 1847.
Apr 27, 11:00 AM CEST
ALESSANDRO CITTADINI (1820-1877) - MINIATURE "PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG LADY" IN ITS BOX, SIGNED AND DATED 1847.
by Goldfield Auction
Est: €75- €150
€1202 Bids
Portrait Miniature
Apr 21, 10:00 AM EDT
Portrait Miniature
by Devin Moisan Auctioneers, Inc.
Est: $400- $600
$2252 Bids
Portrait Miniature
Apr 21, 10:00 AM EDT
Portrait Miniature
by Devin Moisan Auctioneers, Inc.
Est: $200- $400
$1252 Bids
"YOUNG ODALISQUES" PAIR OF MINIATURE PAINTINGS, SIGNED.
Apr 27, 11:00 AM CEST
"YOUNG ODALISQUES" PAIR OF MINIATURE PAINTINGS, SIGNED.
by Goldfield Auction
Est: €150- €250
€1401 Bid
Three Portrait Miniatures,Early Nineteenth Century
Apr 20, 10:00 AM EDT
Three Portrait Miniatures,Early Nineteenth Century
by Devin Moisan Auctioneers, Inc.
Est: $300- $500
$1501 Bid
MINIATURE PORTRAIT PAINTING of SEATED GIRL
May 11, 11:00 AM EDT
MINIATURE PORTRAIT PAINTING of SEATED GIRL
by John McInnis Auctioneers
Est: $300- $600
$1501 Bid
SEHR FEINE PORTRÄT-MINIATUR MIT ZAR PETER III. VON RUSSLAND
Apr 20, 10:00 AM CEST
SEHR FEINE PORTRÄT-MINIATUR MIT ZAR PETER III. VON RUSSLAND
by Hargesheimer Kunstauktionen Düsseldorf
Est: €300- €600
€3001 Bid
2 ANTIQUE ENGLISH WAX PORTRAITS
Apr 21, 11:00 AM EDT
2 ANTIQUE ENGLISH WAX PORTRAITS
by Americana Auctions
Est: $500- $700
$2501 Bid
A Collection of 19th Century & Later Miniature Portraits (17).
Apr 21, 11:00 AM BST
A Collection of 19th Century & Later Miniature Portraits (17).
by Wilkinson's Auctioneers
Est: £100- £200
£601 Bid
AMERICAN OR EUROPEAN SCHOOL (19TH CENTURY) MINIATURE PORTRAITS, LOT OF THREE
Apr 27, 9:00 AM EDT
AMERICAN OR EUROPEAN SCHOOL (19TH CENTURY) MINIATURE PORTRAITS, LOT OF THREE
by Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates
Est: $100- $200
$501 Bid
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Pair Boulle Frame Miniature Portraits
May 05, 10:00 AM CDT
Pair Boulle Frame Miniature Portraits
by J. Garrett Auctioneers
Est: $100- $25,000
$1001 Bid
MINIATURE PORTRAIT OF AN OFFICER.
Apr 27, 10:00 AM EDT
MINIATURE PORTRAIT OF AN OFFICER.
by Amelia Jeffers
Est: $75- $150
$401 Bid
A pair of miniatures, 11cm x 11cm
Apr 24, 4:00 PM AEST
A pair of miniatures, 11cm x 11cm
by Lawsons
Est: AUD100- AUD150
AUD151 Bid
(2) Antique Painted Wood Framed Miniature Portraits
Apr 30, 12:00 PM EDT
(2) Antique Painted Wood Framed Miniature Portraits
by Akiba Galleries
Est: $25- $250
$251 Bid
"THE LADY IN BLUE" MINIATURE PORTRAIT, 19TH CENTURY.
Apr 27, 11:00 AM CEST
"THE LADY IN BLUE" MINIATURE PORTRAIT, 19TH CENTURY.
by Goldfield Auction
Est: €40- €80
€401 Bid

Sellers Who Sell Portrait Miniature Paintings


Auktionshaus Schwab

Auktionshaus Schwab

Sheppards

Sheppards

Amelia Jeffers

Amelia Jeffers

Freeman's | Hindman

Freeman's | Hindman