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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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ANTIQUE ENGLISH LOVERS EYES OIL PAINTING CA 19TH C
Jun 16, 10:00 AM EDT
ANTIQUE ENGLISH LOVERS EYES OIL PAINTING CA 19TH C
by Antique Arena Inc
Est: $100- $150
$1755 Bids
TWO GEORGIAN PORTRAIT MINIATURES
Jun 23, 3:00 PM AEST
TWO GEORGIAN PORTRAIT MINIATURES
by Philips Auctions
Est: AUD100- AUD200
AUD1104 Bids
Portrait Miniature Assortment
Jun 23, 10:00 AM CDT
Portrait Miniature Assortment
by Leonard Auction
Est: $500- $700
$4503 Bids
Miniature Antique Portrait After Elisabeth Le Brun
Jun 29, 11:00 AM EDT
Miniature Antique Portrait After Elisabeth Le Brun
by Kavanagh Auctions
Est: $50- $15,000
$602 Bids
An Antique English miniature on ivory depicting the mother and child. Signed. H 9cm, W 7cm
Jun 16, 12:00 PM AEST
An Antique English miniature on ivory depicting the mother and child. Signed. H 9cm, W 7cm
by Christian McCann Auctions
Est: AUD250- AUD375
AUD2502 Bids
A MINIATURE AND A PORTRAIT PRINT
Jun 23, 3:00 PM AEST
A MINIATURE AND A PORTRAIT PRINT
by Philips Auctions
Est: AUD100- AUD200
AUD602 Bids
Portrait Miniature Assortment
Jun 23, 10:00 AM CDT
Portrait Miniature Assortment
by Leonard Auction
Est: $400- $600
$2252 Bids
Portrait Miniature Painting Assortment
Jun 23, 10:00 AM CDT
Portrait Miniature Painting Assortment
by Leonard Auction
Est: $400- $600
$2252 Bids
Pair Antique Miniature Painting Portraits, Ladies
Jun 29, 11:00 AM EDT
Pair Antique Miniature Painting Portraits, Ladies
by Kavanagh Auctions
Est: $50- $15,000
$501 Bid
Wenzel Kraus Miniature Painting Portrait of a Lady
Jun 29, 11:00 AM EDT
Wenzel Kraus Miniature Painting Portrait of a Lady
by Kavanagh Auctions
Est: $100- $15,000
$1001 Bid
VICTORIAN MINIATURE PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG WOMAN
Jun 30, 11:00 AM EDT
VICTORIAN MINIATURE PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG WOMAN
by Thomaston Place Auction Galleries
Est: $600- $800
$3001 Bid
Antique Miniature Portrait Painting
Jun 19, 6:00 PM EDT
Antique Miniature Portrait Painting
by Kodner Galleries
Est: $50- $150
$201 Bid
Grouping of Miniature Portraits Paintings
Jun 19, 6:00 PM EDT
Grouping of Miniature Portraits Paintings
by Kodner Galleries
Est: $150- $300
$701 Bid
Antique Miniature Portrait Painting
Jun 19, 6:00 PM EDT
Antique Miniature Portrait Painting
by Kodner Galleries
Est: $50- $150
$201 Bid
Antique Victorian Miniature Portrait
Jun 19, 6:00 PM EDT
Antique Victorian Miniature Portrait
by Kodner Galleries
Est: $50- $150
$201 Bid
Antique Victorian Miniature Portrait
Jun 19, 6:00 PM EDT
Antique Victorian Miniature Portrait
by Kodner Galleries
Est: $50- $150
$201 Bid
Antique Portrait Miniature Graceful Lady Mignard
Jun 29, 11:00 AM EDT
Antique Portrait Miniature Graceful Lady Mignard
by Kavanagh Auctions
Est: $50- $15,000
$501 Bid
Miscellaneous Miniatures, Plaques, Pietra Dura
Jun 20, 12:00 PM EDT
Miscellaneous Miniatures, Plaques, Pietra Dura
by Cottone Auctions
Est: $100- $200
$501 Bid
Portrait Miniature Assortment
Jun 23, 10:00 AM CDT
Portrait Miniature Assortment
by Leonard Auction
Est: $400- $600
$2001 Bid
Portrait Miniature Assortment
Jun 23, 10:00 AM CDT
Portrait Miniature Assortment
by Leonard Auction
Est: $500- $700
$2501 Bid
Royal Portrait Miniature Assortment
Jun 23, 10:00 AM CDT
Royal Portrait Miniature Assortment
by Leonard Auction
Est: $500- $700
$2501 Bid
Portrait Miniature Assortment
Jun 23, 10:00 AM CDT
Portrait Miniature Assortment
by Leonard Auction
Est: $300- $500
$1501 Bid
Paar Miniaturbilder
Jun 16, 11:00 AM CEST
Paar Miniaturbilder
by Auktionshaus Schwerin
Est: €0- €0
€301 Bid

Sellers Who Sell Portrait Miniature Paintings


Auktionshaus Schwab

Auktionshaus Schwab

Sworders

Sworders

Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates

Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates

Nagel Auction

Nagel Auction