Dating ivory miniature painting
In the eighteenth century, artists on the Continent and in America were commissioned to create miniature paintings that were personal, political, erotic or otherwise.
These small, portable images included likenesses of lovers and the betrothed, husbands, wives and children; kings, queens, princes, generals, consorts, and the deceased done as funeral pieces or memorials.
The Metropolitan Museum of art owns several of these graphite pieces by Thomas Forster, dated 1700.
They are incredibly detailed and might be mistaken for a black and white photograph unless they were inspected closely.
The images were painted with watercolor, oils, enamels, and sometimes drawn with plumbago (the early term for graphite).
By the 18th century, signatures were usually reduced to small and unobtrusive initials, when they appeared at all, but in the 16th century, the signature and the sitters nameand perhaps even the datemight be gorgeously lettered in gold on a very dark or cobalt blue background.
The ornate calligraphic lettering was an integral part of the overall design, often wreathing the sitters head.
Miniatures appear to have come into their own, and for a much broader spectrum of the population in the 18th Century, when they were owned by royalty, gentry, and commoner folk alike.
The range of quality of extant frames and mounts, the painting surface itself, and relative skill of the painter suggest that they were much more widely available to middling folk as well as to the upper classes.
(Reynolds is an acknowledged expert on the art of the miniature, and was responsible for the collection of British portrait miniatures at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, some 2000 works.