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Portrait miniature with mica overlays - An Unknown woman

An Unknown woman

  • Object:

    Portrait miniature with mica overlays

  • Place of origin:

    Netherlands (possibly, painted)

  • Date:

    second half 17th century (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Portrait miniature, oil on copper, with talc overlays

  • Credit Line:

    Given by E. V. Lucas

  • Museum number:

    P.43 to S-1921

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case RMC, shelf 7, box C []

This is an example of an unusual amusement that came into fashion after about 1650. It consists of an oil miniature painted on copper and set in a leather case. Accompanying the miniature are a number of costume details painted in opaque colour on slivers of transparent mineral known at the time as 'talc'. In fact, the little costume sheets are pieces of mica. This is a mineral that splits easily into thin yet very tough and flexible flakes, as transparent as glass. These 'talcs' matched the oil miniature in shape and size, so that the owner could dress up the subject in different costumes by laying on the 'talcs' one at a time. We do not know where these miniatures were manufactured, but they are found throughout Europe. They could be accompanied by as many as 20 different talcs.

Physical description

"Talc" miniature. Image of a woman, wearing a pink dress with a jewel set on the lace trim of the bodice, set against a solid dark background. Oil on copper, with talc costume overlays. This miniature has 20 talc overlays in total.

Place of Origin

Netherlands (possibly, painted)


second half 17th century (painted)



Materials and Techniques

Portrait miniature, oil on copper, with talc overlays

Descriptive line

Anonymous 'talc' portrait miniature of an unknown woman, oil on copper with a painted mica costume overlay. Dutch School, 17th century.


Oil colour; Copper; Talc



Subjects depicted

Women's; Costume




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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