“It is . . . an ornament with a human history . . . the whole art and experience of one of the old masters compressed on to the space of a coin of the realm; . . . a biography on a vignette; a secret whispered in the past, and now revealed with every tone preserved.”—J. Lumsden Propert, A History of Miniature Art, 1887
Describing the particular charm of the miniature, Victorian collector J. Lumsden Propert highlighted the intimacy of these small portraits. As objects to be admired up close and turned in the hand, they are likenesses for private meditation and selective display. A study of portrait miniatures reveals personalities—their romances, heartbreaks, and comic vanities—as well as relationships between sitter and artist; portrait and setting; object and collection.
The Cleveland Museum of Art’s British miniatures are renowned for their exceptional quality. British Portrait Miniatures takes a closer look at more than seventy treasures from its extraordinary collection, many published here for the first time. Representing years of research and systematic study, Cory Korkow, with the assistance of Jon L. Seydl, collates new provenance, biography, and stylistic analysis to uncover the distinctive character of these enigmatic portraits.
Cory Korkow is associate curator of European paintings and sculpture, 1500–1800 at the Cleveland Museum of Art