I love miniature paintings in pieces of jewellery as they give me a look at someone who lived when the painting was made and who was loved or admired. Someone, and it may have been the subject of the painting themselves, spent a lot of money commissioning a miniature painting, perhaps an early form of selfie.
There are other miniatures that celebrate a well-known person, say, like Admiral Nelson or a Queen or a King. Early miniatures in this category were of King Charles I of England who was beheaded in 1649. His miniatures were often hidden inside rings or brooches as after the English Civil War, wearing such items would have been dangerous. King Charles II encouraged the wearing of such items after his restoration in 1660 but they again had to be hidden after the exile of James II in 1688.
The miniature paintings I have are of real people, so they are not always so flattering. The one above, a bracelet clasp, is of a middle-aged man from the Georgian period. His face is plump and he has a double chin. His wig is a light gray and has three rolls above the ear, as was typical of the 1760s and after. He is wearing a lovely blue coat and waistcoat, both with gold buttons, and a white stock. He is recognisable, though, as a real person.
The second one I have is of a lady with a frilled white cap with a blue ribbon threaded through the lace frills and tying under the chin She is not a young women but not elderly either but clearly middle aged. Her hand painted picture is on one side of a heavy gold locket, while the other side shows lovely machine turning decoration. Inside the locket is a glazed compartment with basket woven hair, with brown and gray threads. A lot of care has gone into creating this quite substantial memorial piece of jewellery.
Another miniature, this time a brooch, shows a woman wearing a linen cap with a pleated frill. It has a black or brown ribbon encircling the cap and tied in a bow at the top peak. She is wearing a matching ribbon around her neck and a black dress with a lace trim.
My last miniature is another clasp, showing the painting of a soldier, in a red jacket with blue facings. He has a white high collared shirt, with a front ruffle and with a black stock. I can’t see if he has any shoulder epaulettes. His hair is brown with side curls and he has blue eyes. It is from around 1770.
Miniature painting was a specialised area and was most popular in the 18th and early 19th centuries. However, photography was introduced in 1839 and the interest in and market for painted miniatures declined rapidly.