How could we live without our phones and the urge to have our likeness framed forever and passed on to our loved ones? Welcome to the world of Miniature Portraits or what I like to call Regency Selfies.
About 4 years ago when I had just joined JASNA – Atlanta Region, we were invited to go to Columbus, GA to attend a lecture on Miniature Portraits. The lecture was given by Kristen Miller Zohn in one of the AGM’s (Annual General Meeting for Janeites of North America and more). She was willing to do it again for our group at the Columbus Museum of Art where she was the curator. It was quite a treat. Not only did we get a wonderful and very knowledgeable lecture but we got to see the real thing. The museum has several miniatures that are 200 years old or more.
When they first appeared in the 1500’s they were made of vellum or card and backed by playing cards. In the 1700’s they started making them in thin discs of ivory. The major difference between these miniatures and our selfies today it is the secrecy. They were not for the public eye but only for the loved ones and to be kept hidden in special places or worn close to the body. It is a lot more romantic and also something you could actually hold between your hands when you were far from those you treasure dearly.
I was lucky enough to see them up close and it is almost impossible to imagine the work that went into crafting such a small but so detailed portrait. Do I love taking pictures? Yes, of course! Would I want to have my portrait in ivory? You bet! I carry my husband’s dog tags (ex-Army) in my key chain so he is always close to me but it would be a lot more fun to carry his portrait in ivory as well.
Besides portraits there was another practice that has to do with the hair of your loved ones made into jewelry. If you like this post I strongly suggest you read Kristen’s full lecture on the link below. It is extremely interesting. You won’t regret it. If you do read I would like to know if you would wear hair adorned jewelry. I don’t think that is as romantic as the portraits. Unless I could keep a whole lock of hair inside a locket hanging on my neck. What do you think? Please share your thoughts.
Rita L. Watts