History of Miniature Paintings

Mandy Eve-BarnettArt, History

Miniature Paintings on Palm Leaves
Miniature Paintings on Palm Leaves - circa 9th -10th century

In honour of our upcoming Masterpieces in Miniature Exhibition in May 2023, we are looking at the history of miniature paintings. The origins can be traced back to the 9th – 10th century Western India, where images were found on palm leaf manuscripts in the Buddhist Pala period. These were thought to be influenced by mural paintings. Subsequently, during the 17th century miniatures were generally created with watercolor paint on thin sheets of ivory, or paper. There are two forms of miniature painting – a Persian miniature on paper in the Persian tradition, for a book or album. Or a Ottoman miniature, again on paper in the tradition of the Ottoman Empire, for a book or album.

In 1526, Holbein, who was King Henry the Eight’s court painter, began creating miniature images of the King and his wives. Holbein was acknowledged as the first master of miniature portraits. At that time the process was called limning, the art of creating a good likeness of someone. That was not always the case, however. It was, until recently, sited that a portrait of Anne of Cleves sent to King Henry the Eight, flattered the image of the bride-to-be. The King subsequently annulled the marriage saying her looks were misrepresented.

Miniature paintings were conceived as personal mementos and tokens of affection, much like our own photographs today. These intimate images were carried or worn by both men and women as a means to keep loved ones close at heart, even when they were not physically present.

A painter of miniatures is called a miniaturist. The word derives from minio, which is Latin for red lead, which is used in illumination. These artists paint in great detail on a very small scale, and the art form is still practiced today with paintings illustrating not just portraits, but more diverse subjects.

Preview or more info on the Masterpieces in Miniature Art Show featuring over 45 artists.

We look forward to you enjoying this exhibition and remind you that, once again, we will donate a portion of the proceeds to Wellspring Edmonton to help fund the “Art Therapy Program. Feel free read about this exceptional program here: http://www.wellspringalberta.ca/