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Exceptional and Personal: British Portrait Miniatures of the Cleveland Museum of Art

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Exceptional and Personal: British Portrait Miniatures of the Cleveland Museum of Art

 

“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.

From the day the Cleveland Museum of Art opened its doors in 1916, portrait miniatures have been a part of its collection. The museum's British miniatures are renowned for their exceptional quality. Coinciding with the opening of the Cleveland Museum of Art's Disembodied: Portrait Miniatures and Their Contemporary Relatives exhibition, the museum recently published British Portrait Miniatures. Authored by Associate Curator of European Art, Cory Korkow, the book takes a closer look at more than seventy treasures from the museum's extraordinary collection, many published for the first time. Lavishly illustrated, new high-resolution details reveal these diminutive portraits as they have never been seen before. Representing years of research and systematic study, this volume collates new provenance, biography, and stylistic analysis to reveal the distinctive character of these enigmatic portraits. 

A study of portrait miniatures also reveals personalities— their romances, heartbreaks, and comic vanities—as well as relationships between sitter and artist. On February 14, Korkow will reveal the true stories of the people whose intimate portraits appear in the exhibition Disembodied: Portrait Miniatures and Their Contemporary Relatives, which closes on February 16. The talk, titled Mini-Drama: The Real-Life Heartbreaks and Romances of Portrait Miniatures, will take place in the exhibition on Valentine's Day at 7 p.m.

Related:

> Purchase British Portrait Miniatures
> February 14 Lecture: Mini-Drama: The Real-Life Heartbreaks and Romances of Portrait Miniatures
> January 29 Lecture: Collecting Relationships: Portrait Miniatures and the Cleveland Museum of Art (Park Avenue Armory in New York City)
> Blog: Petite Preservation: Conserving Portrait Miniatures