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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Miniature Portraits

What is a Limner?
I had never heard of the word until I read the second book in the Deborah Harkness All Souls trilogy, Shadow of Night (the first is A Discovery of Witches). Both of these books are excellent reads and I especially enjoyed the audio versions. The second has colorful, realistic descriptions of life in the Queen Victoria era.
In this story which is mostly set in 15th century England during the reign of Queen Victoria, there is mention of a Limner. A Limner is a freelance artist, a decorative painter, and in this story, who specializes in tiny, miniature portraits of the royal court that were often done to fit lockets or worn as brooches.
There are some very famous limners and the one mentioned in the book is Nicholas Hilliard.
As I fell down the rabbit hole of information regarding this genre, I am fascinated by the detail of these tiny portraits. I also found pets and animals painted in reverse on the backside of glass and rock crystal. How I would love to have one of these miniature gems or at least see how they were done to such perfection. Most are 1 1/2" to 3".

What does this subject have to do with my paintings? Currently I will be painting another 5"x7' miniature and also a reverse glass painting with many very fine miniature details. Both are very entailed and require a magnifying glass to paint them. Oh, and very tiny brushes and liners! I am assuming that is what the limners of the past used for painting the tiny portraits - magnifying glass.

I love the fact that it is thanks to artists visual recordings that we know the history of fashion, lifestyle, and so much more about different eras in human history. Enjoy these exquisite little masterpieces by Nicholas Hilliard that you can hold in the palm of your hand, 1 1/2" - 3". Notice the tiny dog in the full length portrait "~)  All are 3/4 views with jewel like colors and details. Click on the image for the full size.

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