The Art & Science of Portrait Miniatures

January 24, 2017 – April 16, 2017

Carrying tiny photos of our loved ones snapped with our cellphone camera is something we take for granted these days. It is hard to comprehend a time when the only way you could have a picture of someone you love was to commission an artist to paint a portrait. If you wanted to commemorate a significant occasion such as a birth, death, marriage, engagement or even seal an illicit love affair, you would likely have an artist create a portrait miniature. Similar to carrying pictures of the people we love on our phone in our pocket, portrait miniatures were often fashioned as jewelry worn close to the heart. Some even incorporated hair from the subject, creating an even greater sense of intimacy and sentimentality.

Image of Valentine Blanchard Portrait Miniature. Courtesy of the Juniata College Museum of Art.

Left: Charles Cromwell Ingham, Valentine Blanchard, watercolor on ivory, 1839, 1 5/8″ x 1 3/8″. Right: Charles Cromwell Ingham, Valentine Blanchard (verso), watercolor on ivory, 1839, 1 5/8″ x 1 3/8″ showing human hair encased in the piece. Photos courtesy of the Juniata College Museum of Art.

The romance of these little paintings intrigued Curator Jennifer Streb at the Juniata College Museum of Art (JCMA) in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, who was curious to know what else could be discovered if she took a scientific approach to studying these precious miniatures. To satisfy her curiosity, she contacted Juniata College Chemistry Professor Richard Hark and the two brought together students in art history, history, museum studies, and chemistry to study their collection of portrait miniatures with scientific instruments. Using Infrared Reflectology (IRR), Ultraviolet Photography, X-radiography, X-ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy (XRF), and Raman Spectroscopy, they explored below the surface of the paintings. The team uncovered information about these miniature works of art that could only be obtained by delving into the paintings scientifically.

Image of Small Child Portrait Miniature. Courtesy of the Juniata College Museum of Art.

Detail of: Unknown, Small Child, Blond with Blue Eyes, Long Hair, Blue Sash and Blue Background, watercolor on ivory, c. 1840, 1 3/4″ x 1 3/8″, as seen under various illumination conditions: (a) infrared light, (b) visible light and (c) ultraviolet light. Images courtesy of the Juniata College Museum of Art.

The Art & Science of Portrait Miniatures features forty-four tiny portrait paintings created between the 18th and early 20th centuries and the accompanying findings. The goal of this exhibit is to illustrate how scientific analysis complements traditional art historical research and helps people to “see” art in new and interesting ways.

This exhibit will be on display at The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures from January 24, 2017 through April 16, 2017. Included with museum admission.

 

JCMA logo

Exhibition organized by the Juniata College Museum of Art in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.

   

Audio Guide Available

There is an audio tour for this exhibit that you can access on your own mobile device using our wifi. Please bring headphones, or you may borrow a pair from us.

En Español

Para accesar a una descripción de la exposición en español, utilice su dispositivo móbil para visitor. www.theminitimemachine.org/retrato-espanol

Exhibit Catalogue

An exhibit catalogue will be available for purchase in the Museum Store.

Associated Programs

Opening Reception– Thursday, January 26, 2017 from 5pm–7pm. The opening reception is for museum members and by invitation only. Click here to become a museum member >>

Tokens of Affection: Miniature Keepsakes Class: Thursday, February 2, 2017 from 6pm–8pm. $20 per person, includes materials. Members receive a 10% discount Pre-registration required.

Tokens of Affection: Fabergé – Inspired Eggs Class: Thursday, March 16, 2017 from 6pm–8pm. $30 per person, includes materials. Members receive a 10% discount. Pre-registration required.

Exhibit Support and Sponsors:

AZ-Comm-Arts-2C-Logo-White-ƒ-150x89 This exhibit is supported in part by the Arizona Commission on the Arts, which receives support from the State of Arizona and the National Endowment for the Arts.