Portrait of an unknown woman thumbnail 1
Portrait of an unknown woman thumbnail 2
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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Portrait Miniatures, Room 90a, The International Music and Art Foundation Gallery

Portrait of an unknown woman

Portrait Miniature
ca. 1780 (painted)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

The pair of this miniature depicts the sitter’s husband (EVANS.167). They both show that a fine miniature need not be the preserve of the young and beautiful.

Meyer seems to have revolutionised the appearance of British miniatures on ivory from the 1760s. Painting in watercolour on ivory rather than vellum (fine animal skin) had led artists to work in a cautious manner. Ivory is oily and non-absorbent, and watercolour can be lifted from the ivory by any new brush stroke. This encouraged artists to lay on colour in careful dots and touches, side by side rather than blended. By the 1750s miniaturists had begun to find ways to improve the ivory surface and their painting techniques. The ivory was cut more thinly and the saw marks were removed by scraping. The surface was abraded with glass-paper and ground with wet pumice powder. Finally, it was pressed between sheets of absorbent paper with an iron, and vinegar and garlic were applied to remove excess grease. The flow of paint was also improved by adding more gum arabic, which allowed greater freedom of handling. This also resulted in the watercolour being more transparent. Artists began to exploit the pleasing effect of the luminous ivory showing through the paint.

Meyer was the first artist to realise fully the potential of these changes. He abandoned the use of cautious dots, and instead used the brush more adventurously. He created a graceful network of lines of varying length and colour, as this superb miniature shows. The bravura of this technique allowed for no alterations. It was quite unlike the careful, hesitant brushwork of earlier British artists working on ivory.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Watercolour on ivory
Brief Description
Portrait miniature of an unknown woman, ca. 1780, a pair to Evans.167, watercolour on ivory, painted by Jeremiah Meyer, R.A. (1735-1789).
Physical Description
Portrait miniature on ivory of an unknown woman
Dimensions
  • Height: 73mm
  • Width: 56mm
Dimensions taken from Summary Catalogue of Miniatures in the Victoria and Albert Museum, Emmett Microform, 1981.
Style
Credit line
Alan Evans Bequest, given by the National Gallery
Summary
The pair of this miniature depicts the sitter’s husband (EVANS.167). They both show that a fine miniature need not be the preserve of the young and beautiful.



Meyer seems to have revolutionised the appearance of British miniatures on ivory from the 1760s. Painting in watercolour on ivory rather than vellum (fine animal skin) had led artists to work in a cautious manner. Ivory is oily and non-absorbent, and watercolour can be lifted from the ivory by any new brush stroke. This encouraged artists to lay on colour in careful dots and touches, side by side rather than blended. By the 1750s miniaturists had begun to find ways to improve the ivory surface and their painting techniques. The ivory was cut more thinly and the saw marks were removed by scraping. The surface was abraded with glass-paper and ground with wet pumice powder. Finally, it was pressed between sheets of absorbent paper with an iron, and vinegar and garlic were applied to remove excess grease. The flow of paint was also improved by adding more gum arabic, which allowed greater freedom of handling. This also resulted in the watercolour being more transparent. Artists began to exploit the pleasing effect of the luminous ivory showing through the paint.



Meyer was the first artist to realise fully the potential of these changes. He abandoned the use of cautious dots, and instead used the brush more adventurously. He created a graceful network of lines of varying length and colour, as this superb miniature shows. The bravura of this technique allowed for no alterations. It was quite unlike the careful, hesitant brushwork of earlier British artists working on ivory.
Associated Object
EVANS.167 (Object)
Bibliographic Reference
Summary Catalogue of Miniatures in the Victoria and Albert Museum, Emmett Microform, 1981
Collection
Accession Number
EVANS.166

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record createdJuly 8, 2003
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