Friday, February 23, 2007

February 2007 - American and European miniatures

None of this group of additions can be regarded as normal miniature portraits, they all being more decorative in nature.

However, they are all of interest in compiling a well-rounded collection and showing that any specialised subject does have an overflow into adjacent collecting areas .

They include a set of four modern wax miniature portraits by the British artist, Leonard Pearce, made to celebrate the 1976 bi-centenary.

The sitters are George Washington, Lafayette, John Paul Jones, and Benjamin Franklin. The quality of these portraits is very high, but difficult to appreciate as the images have been scanned through the glass.

Generally, decorative miniatures are outside the scope of the collection, but two miniatures of cupids are shown here as they symbolise the intent of many miniature portraits which were often given as a romantic gift. In one picture the cupids are heating an arrow of love in a fire. In the other portrait the arrow has been fired and hit its target, a lover's heart.

The most important item in this group of additions is an extremely rare example of American 20C erotic art. It is in the form of a miniature portrait of a couple painted in watercolor on ivory. It dates from the time of World War I or perhaps the Roaring Twenties. The artist is unknown, but the frame is distinctly American.

Even today there was some hesitation before displaying it in the online collection and no offence to vistors is intended by so displaying it.

One inspiration for this type of erotic art can be seen in the two examples here, which are both hand painted in enamel on the exterior of German or Austrian sterling sliver cigarette cases from the early 20C.

These two were acquired for the collection last year, as examples of painted miniatures in forms other than normal portraits, but are only now on display. Cases like these are highly collectable and in great demand by collectors.

The earlier one from around 1900 shows a young girl carrying a basket on her back. She is showing her ankles, which was not the norm for the day. She must have earned her living as a waste paper collector, as pieces of paper can be seen in the basket and in her right hand she is carrying a pointed stick to pick up paper.

She has had a lucky day, as in her left hand she must have found, and is holding up a banknote which is inscribed "Cinq francs" for five francs. There is humour in the image as on the ground to the left is another piece of paper which is inscribed "Figaro" being the name of a major French newspaper and obviously less valued than a five franc note!

The slightly more recent cigarette case from around 1910 shows a young lady holding a powder puff and applying talcum powder to herself after a bath. Perhaps she has acquired her five francs in another manner!

Later examples of these cigarette cases had the erotic picture concealed inside the case.

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