[Ital.,=artwork, especially manuscript initial letters, done with the red lead pigment minium;
the word originally had no implication as to size]. In a general sense the term denotes any small, detailed kind of painting, including medieval illumination
and much of the finest painting of India and Persia. It is also used to refer to diminutive portraits. Among the earliest European masters of this latter art were Holbein the Younger, Jean Clouet, and Jean Fouquet. English masters famous for their miniatures in the 16th and 17th cent. were Nicholas Hilliard, Isaac Oliver, Samuel Cooper, and Richard Cosway. The early portrait miniatures were executed in a precise, sometimes precious style. Two artists of the 18th cent., the Swede Peter Adolphe Hall and the Venetian Rosalba Carriera, introduced a new freedom of brushstroke, even within the small format. Among those who executed elegant and intimate miniatures in France during the 18th and 19th cent. were Nattier, Fragonard, Boucher, and Isabey. In colonial America, C. W. Peale, Benbridge, Copley, Peter Pelham, and E. G. Malbone were notable exponents of the art. Watercolor on parchment, paper, porcelain, or ivory was the most frequently employed medium for miniatures. The art virtually died with the advent of photography. The Metropolitan Museum, the Louvre, and the Wallace Collection in London have notable collections of miniatures. See articles on individuals, e.g., Nicholas Hilliard
and articles on Indian art and architecture
and on Persian art and architecture
See Elvehjem Art Center, Indian Miniature Painting (1971); S. C. Welch, A King's Book of Kings (1972); D. Foskett, Miniatures: Dictionary and Guide (1987).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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