Portrait Miniatures: Intimate Expressions of Love

Portrait miniatures were popular among 16th-century English and French aristocrats.

Spreading across Europe in the 18th century, miniatures remained very popular until the latter half of the 19th century when the first photographic processes started to appear.

Today, one of the reasons we take selfies is to share on social networks, particularly for use as our profile pictures. It's a convenient way to introduce ourselves to other people over distance.




This was one of the uses of portrait miniatures—as profile pictures : "this is me in my Sunday best."

Portrait miniatures also brought a new innovation in matchmaking. If a nobleman was proposing the marriage of his daughter, he would send a portrait miniature via courier to potential suitors.

At about half the size of an iPhone, they were convenient for carrying a picture of a loved one at all times.

Soldiers and sailors would draw comfort from them while traveling in remote corners of the world. And wives could keep a picture of their husband close to their hearts while he was away.

Small is beautiful.

Here are ten intimate expressions of love ... in miniature...

Portrait of a Gentleman by William M. S. Doyle, 1810
Portrait of a Gentleman by William M. S. Doyle, 1810

You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever.Jane Austen, Persuasion
Portrait of a Lady by Charles Cromwell Ingham, 1837
Portrait of a Lady by Charles Cromwell Ingham, 1837
Portrait of a Man by Nathaniel Jocelyn, 1830
Portrait of a Man by Nathaniel Jocelyn, 1830

All hopes of eternity and all gain from the past he would have given to have her there, to be wrapped warm with him in one blanket, and sleep, only sleepD.H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley's Lover
Portrait of a Lady by William P. Sheys, 1813
Portrait of a Lady by William P. Sheys, 1813
Self-Portrait by John Henry Brown, 1846
Self-Portrait by John Henry Brown, 1846
By my soul, I can neither eat, drink, nor sleep; nor, what's still worse, love any woman in the world but her.Samuel Richardson, Clarissa
Mrs. Vanderbank by Christian Friedrich Zincke, 1730
Mrs. Vanderbank by Christian Friedrich Zincke, 1730
Self Portrait by George Harvey, 1830
Self Portrait by George Harvey, 1830
In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.Jane Austen, Pride And Prejudice
Rebecca Wetherill by George Hewitt Cushman, 1849
Rebecca Wetherill by George Hewitt Cushman, 1849
Portrait of a Gentleman by Moses B. Russell, 1834
Portrait of a Gentleman by Moses B. Russell, 1834
He feeds upon her face by day and night, And she with true kind eyes looks back on him, Fair as the moon and joyful as the light.Christina Rossetti, In An Artist's Studio
Augusta Temple Palmer by Jean-Baptiste Isabey, 1828
Augusta Temple Palmer by Jean-Baptiste Isabey, 1828
Portrait of a Gentleman by Joseph Wood, 1815
Portrait of a Gentleman by Joseph Wood, 1815
Love seeketh not itself to please, Nor for itself hath any care; But for another gives its ease, And builds a Heaven in Hell's despair.William Blake, The Clod And The Pebble
Lola Montez by Josef Heigel c. 1820
Lola Montez by Josef Heigel c. 1820
Portrait of a Gentleman by Anna Claypoole Peale, 1832
Portrait of a Gentleman by Anna Claypoole Peale, 1832
Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights
Portrait of a Lady by Frederick R. Spencer, 1830
Portrait of a Lady by Frederick R. Spencer, 1830
Self-portrait by Thomas Seir Cummings, 1825
Self-portrait by Thomas Seir Cummings, 1825
Every atom of your flesh is as dear to me as my own: in pain and sickness it would still be dear.Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
Portrait of a Lady by Lawrence Sully, 1795
Portrait of a Lady by Lawrence Sully, 1795
Self Portrait by James Van Dyck, 1836
Self Portrait by James Van Dyck, 1836
I cannot let you burn me up, nor can I resist you. No mere human can stand in a fire and not be consumed.A.S. Byatt, Possession
Elizabeth Scott by Nathaniel Hancock, 1795
Elizabeth Scott by Nathaniel Hancock, 1795
General Henry Knox by Charles Willson Peale, 1778
General Henry Knox by Charles Willson Peale, 1778
Oh the heart that has truly loved never forgets, But as truly loves on to the close.Thomas Moore, Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms
Rachel Brewer by Charles Willson Peale, 1790
Rachel Brewer by Charles Willson Peale, 1790

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