Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Portrait miniature - An Unknown woman holding a miniature
  • An Unknown woman holding a miniature
    Füger, Heinrich Friedrich, born 1751 - died 1818
  • Enlarge image

An Unknown woman holding a miniature

  • Object:

    Portrait miniature

  • Place of origin:

    Vienna (possibly, painted)

  • Date:

    1780-1789 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Füger, Heinrich Friedrich, born 1751 - died 1818 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour on ivory

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased with funds from the Murray Bequest

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case RMC, shelf 9, box i

Miniature painting originally referred to the art of painting in watercolour on vellum (fine animal skin). It developed in the early 16th century out of the tradition of illuminating manuscripts (hand-written books). In England, miniature was predominantly a portrait art. It was practised by specialist miniature painters, such as Nicholas Hilliard (1547-1619). On the Continent, miniature painting as a portrait art had a few great practitioners, such as the French painter Jean Clouet (1516?-1572). But not even Clouet was a specialist. Like Hans Holbein, he worked both in miniature and in large in oil.

In France, it was not until the 1770s that a notable school of portrait miniaturists emerged. It was only then that they were able to rival English ones, such as Richard Cosway (1742-1821) and John Smart (1742-1811). Like Cosway and Smart, these French artists worked in watercolour on ivory. Ivory had been introduced in place of vellum in the early 18th century by Rosalba Carriera (1675-1757), a Venetian artist. The use of this new support developed in distinct ways in England and on the Continent.

Heinrich Friedrich Fueger (or Füger) was born in Heilbronn in Germany on 8 December 1751. By the age of eight he was already painting miniature portraits. From 1776 he was in Italy, where he studied classical art and the works of Raphael and Anton Raffael Mengs. He rejected an invitation to St Petersburg and instead returned to Vienna, in 1783. There he became vice-director of the Akademie der Bildenden Künste, and in 1795 its director. As court painter he became the most popular portrait artist in Vienna. But about 1798 an eye ailment prevented his painting miniatures. He also painted a number of important large-scale paintings. He died in Vienna on 5 November 1818.

Physical description

Miniature portrait, half-length, to left and looking to front, of a young woman. In her right hand she is holding a miniature portrait of a man. In the right background is an allegorical scene.

Place of Origin

Vienna (possibly, painted)


1780-1789 (painted)


Füger, Heinrich Friedrich, born 1751 - died 1818 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour on ivory


Diameter: 89 mm

Descriptive line

Portrait of an unknown woman holding a miniature. Miniature on ivory by Heinrich Friedrich, 1780-1789

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Victoria and Albert Museum Department of Prints and Drawings and Department of Paintings Accessions 1954 London: HMSO, 1963


Watercolour; Ivory



Subjects depicted

Woman; Miniature


Portraits; Paintings


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.