Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Conservation of Later Miniatures

Collectors will sometimes come across a miniature painted on ivory
which has become 'warped'  or even worse, cracked.
It is possible to repair cracks and if done well by an experienced conservator,
 the repair can be virtually invisible.

We have noticed that many later miniatures
 (late nineteenth and early twentieth century) suffer from warping because
 the ivory leaf has been stuck
 to a backing board and this seems to be a regular practice during this time.  Bonding different materials with different 
coefficients of expansion is not a good idea,
 especially with a strong glue!

This is a miniature painted by Ida Laidman circa 1915 of an
unknown lady and it was badly warped.
 The ivory stuck to a backing board was even pushing
the back cover away from the frame.

When the miniature was removed from the frame the extent of the
bend in the ivory is apparent

Not a task for the amateur, the backing card had to be removed by a conservator in order to save the miniature from further curvature and eventual cracking.  The sooner a conservator is used to restore the flatness to the ivory, the better.

A new acid free backing card had to be cut with the ivory sandwiched between this and the glass, without being glued to it.  

The miniature was re-assembled into it's cleaned frame and is now looking
much like it did when it was painted. We thought the lady had a
slight smile on relief on her face!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Last Chance to see Special Exhibition of Royal Sitters and Annual Exhibition of the Royal Miniature Society

The 2011 Royal Miniature Society Annual Exhibition is an even more thrilling spectacle than usual this year, with not only a stunning array of talent from living artists, which is reflected in the increased sales of exhibits, but an historic display of miniatures of members of the British Royal Family over the last 450 years or so.

Viewing the Annual Exhibition, which ends 1.00 p.m. on Sunday 23rd Ocober.

Iain Gardiner receiving the Mundy Sovereign Portrait Award 
from President, Elizabeth Meek, with Dr. Stephen Lloyd,
 who opened the Exhibitions, to the right, and Bill Mundy on the left.

The nephew of the winner of the Gold Bowl Award proudly receives his Uncle's trophy and gamely makes a gracious speech.

List of the Special Loan Exhibits - an historic sight with some fabulous and rare miniatures on display for the first time.

Curated by Richard Chadwick, the Special Exhibition has been a huge success and talking point. A few onlookers cheekily asked if any of the exhibits were for sale!  The beautiful Exhibition Catalogue, in full colour, wonderfully researched and written by Richard Chadwick, is a marvellous consolation prize. At only £10 a copy and with the preface written by HRH The Prince of Wales, who is Patron of the Royal Miniature Society, it is a must-have catalogue for all miniature lovers.  All the proceeds from the sale of the catalogue go to the Prince's Drawing School.  

If anyone wishes to buy a copy,  and is unable to attend the Exhibition where it is on sale, please email us on and we shall put you in touch with Richard. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Weeping Glass - a rare disorder

The ideal glass covering for a miniature is thin convex glass.  This
allows a good view of the miniature and protects it from dust and
damage caused by glass rubbing against the paint and possibly sticking
to it and lifting it  (as when flat glass is used). We have seen examples 
where flat glass has rubbed the ivory and damaged the painting.

Side view of a miniature frame showing curvature of the glass

 Flat glass is only used when there is a metal or cardboard 'slip' 
that separates the painting from the glass, 
usually when a miniature is contained in a travel case.

An example of a miniature with a mount and flat glass.

There is an uncommon condition called 'Weeping Glass' that is
caused by faulty manufacture of the glass.

 At first glance,
it might look as though the glass is 'misty' or very dusty, but on
closer inspection one can see that on the underside of the glass there
is a thin film of condensation! If old glass contains 20-30 percent
sodium or potassium, it may have 'glass disease' where the glass
weeps and begins to break down.

Amazingly, this fine mist of water droplets
 cannot be eradicated through cleaning, drying or any other
method that we know of!  And as it poses a huge threat to the
wellbeing of the miniature it has to be removed and discarded
immediately, however inconvenient.

Annual Exhibition and Special Exhibition - The Royal Miniature Society Opens 10th October

The winning entry for the prestigious Gold Bowl award was Mirage by
Ihtesham Hassan from Pakistan.  He paints in oil on vellum and
watercolour on vellum and his remarkable miniature can be seen on  Over 700 exhibits will be on
display in the beautiful Mall Gallery during the two weeks of the
annual exhibition,  Many of the wonderful exhibits are
for sale, encompassing portraits, animals, wildlife, still life and
all things miniature.  A fantastic way to spend a morning or afternoon
(or some money on a purchase!) for anyone who will be in London over
the next two weeks.

Also there is a stunning display of miniatures from
private collections of british royal personages over of the last 400
years from Elizabeth I to date. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Last week we received an invitation from Bernd Pappe
to meet some Portrait Miniature collectors in Paris.
 Bernd is well known as a writer, lecturer, 
conservator and restorer of miniatures.

The Seine on the day of our visit.

We all met up at a small Moroccan restaurant  in Central Paris for dinner.
 There were twelve of us.  Most of the collectors present were French
 and primarily interested in Continental miniatures.
After dinner everyone brought out miniatures
 for the group to inspect and enjoy.
We had a lot of fun and everyone was very friendly.

We brought along a few miniatures from our collection.
 One was a miniature on vellum by the Swiss artist
 Pierre Huaud II set in a gold enamel locket

The front has a country scene with a man fishing.

Inside is a portrait of Frederick Augustus I who was
 Elector of Saxony in 1694and was also King of Poland.
 This was painted c.1690 when the sitter was twenty.
He was also called Augustus the Strong. 
Wikipedia suggests that he liked to live up to his name
 by breaking horseshoes with his bare hands
 and engage in 'fox tossing'
with a single finger!!

On the reverse is his initials at the time of the painting
Frederick August Herzog Zu Sachsen.

We also brought along a later miniature by Reginald Easton.
The sitter is Lucy Marion Hardy of Dunstall Hall near
 Barton under Needwood just north of Birmingham
It was painted in 1875 and shows that there were still 
very talented  miniaturists painting during this period.

The group meet a few times every year, and on this occasion, 
several of the usual participants were unable to come.
  During the evening, we received an invitation from
 one of the collectors and his wife
 to view their collection at their Paris home, 
which was a real privilege.  

The next day we went to the Louvre. We were given a tip by 
Thierry  Jaegy-Theoleyre, a collector at the dinner,
 that if we went to the 'Lion Gate' we could possibly get access 
to some of the wonderful miniatures in the Louvre, 
which are not usually on display.


After filling in forms and working our way through
 French bureaucracy we managed to gain entry
 into the Print and Drawing study room.

The study room is lavish and has a beautiful painting on the ceiling.
We later discovered that Bernd Pappe, 
who carries out conservation work at the Louvre,
 had put in a good word for us,
which helped  in our access to the miniatures.

We had filled out forms with the reference numbers 
of the miniatures we wanted to see
and these were brought to us in sealed boxes. 
Gloves and magnifying glasses were provided.

 We loved certain miniatures particularly.
  This one by Augustin painted in 1795
of three children blowing bubbles was charming.

We are great fans of  Louis Francois Aubry and we were
delighted to examine a self-portrait by him.

A miniature by Dumont.

Finally ,we were able to examine a large portrait
 ( 8 inches by 6 inches ) on ivory by Augustin. 
The sitter is Antoine Chaudet, a painter and sculptor.
Unfortunately because of the reflection from the glass
 the photo does not do this painting justice.


As always, we were astonished by the technique of the Master.
 The light in the eyes and hair parting were extraordinary, 
A true masterpiece which was the final highlight of 
a wonderful few days in Paris.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Nicholas Freese (1761/1762-1831)

Although very recognisable in style, up until now we have known hardly
anything about the artist called N. Freese.  Some refer to him as Nathaniel, others as
Nicholas, but there seemed to be no evidence to support either, as the
very rare signature does not include a Christian name. He appears to
have worked for only a short period of time at the end of the 18th and
beginning of the 19th century. 
 All the miniatures by him that we have seen have been quite
large in size.

His style is quite distinctive.  The first thing one notices is the
almond shaped eyes.

Now it is possible to piece together some details.

 Nicholas Freese
was born probably in 1761. His parents were Nicholas Freese Senior,
who was born in Hamburg, Germany, according to his descendants.  He is
listed in Baileys British Directory for Merchants and Traders as a
Merchant in Commerce, living at 7 New Street, Birmingham,
Warwickshire.  He married Elizabeth Rowney in 1758 in St Martins,
Birmingham.  She was born in 1730 in London.  Nicholas Junior moved to
London to practice as an artist.  Wakefield's Merchant and Tradesman's
General Directory for London lists him in 1790 as a Portrait and
Landscape painter, living at 426 Strand, London. His other known
addresses are 411 Strand and 9 Percy Street, London.  On 29th August,
1791 he married Mary Stokes from Southwark (in those days part of
Surrey) in St. Martin in the Fields.  Pallot's Marriage Index for
England reveals a copy of his marriage record, showing his distinctive
writing of his surname, proving his identity.  The couple had a son,
George, named after his brother, who was a soldier and was killed in
battle.  One of his daughters, Mary, became an actress.  According to
burial records, he died in January 1831 and was buried at St. John the
Evangelist, Lambeth, aged 70.  At the time of his death, he was living
at Waterloo Road, London.

On further inspection, one sees the thin scrawly red lines on the
cheeks of the sitter, almost as though he or she has been scratched by
a cat.

Not all his miniatures are as attractive as this.  Some say that
artists who don't always sign their work tend to sign their best
examples,  but this does not appear to be the case with Freese

An example of his signature.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Thunder Bugs

Although seemingly rare to find inside tightly closed 18th and early
19th century frames, the sight of clusters of thunderflies inside more
recent miniatures, appearing as tiny black specks, is common.

It appears as though there is no 'modern' frame that they cannot penetrate,
and once there, they perish. 

Thunder bugs, also known as
thunderflies, storm flies and thrips, are a pest as they destroy
crops, and have recently succeeded in entering even the LCD moniter!
About 1mm long or less, they love to hide in crevices.

Here, one is stuck to the painted side of the ivory.

Another one has 'glued' with the gum arabic in the painting.

Interestingly, we have not seen Thunder bugs in 17th. century frames.
This could be due the the design of the frame , or a change 
of environment in the late 19th. and early 20th. century

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Mysterious Daniel Brothers

Three brothers, all miniature painters, is not unique in 'miniature'
history. After all, there are the Naish brothers and the Theweneti
brothers to name two other trios who worked in the 'West Country' in
England during the late 18th and 19th century.  However, unlike their
counterparts, the Daniel brothers did not sign their work, nor leave
helpful trade cards as an aid to identification.

Two Miniatures by Daniel.

The three Daniel brothers, Abraham, Joseph and Phineas, were the sons
of Nechaniah Daniel of Bridwater, Somerset and were considered to be
the earliest known jewish artists in the area.  It has come to be
accepted wisdom that all three were taught the art of miniature
painting by their clever mother.

Phineas, the least heard of, worked mainly in Bristol, Abraham
(c.1750-1806) worked mainly in Plymouth and Joseph (c.1760-1803)
worked mainly in Bath and is generally referred to when one talks of
'Daniel of Bath'.  There appears to have been a keen rivalry between
the brothers, all of whom referred to themselves as 'Mr. Daniel' (or

To compound the confusion, all three brothers had business in Bath and
Exeter at various times.
So which was which?

Looking through past records of sales of Daniel
miniatures in the major London auction houses over the years, almost
all of them appear to be attributed to Abraham.  Abraham is the only
brother for whom a signed miniature has been found (depicting Rabbi
Moses of Plymouth), although to our knowledge there is no illustration
available and the whereabouts of this miniature is unknown.  No other
signed examples have come to light.

According to the opinion of Graham Reynolds, as reported by A. Reubens
in his book 'The Daniel Family', Abraham's work has a broad band of
light on the bridge of the sitter's nose, not much in the way of
background, no detail in the hair and sharp edges on the nostrils and
lips. Abraham, who was an engraver and jeweller as well as miniature
painter, left an Estate of £1,500, with £50 apiece left to his
mistress and his illegitimate children!

Joseph Daniel was apparently considered to be the better artist in his
day, and he did not marry Mary Wright until 1798, only a few years
before he died aged 43.  But long enough to father four legitimate
children. There were also tales of illegitimate children in Bristol.
His work is said to have more detail in the hair, more heavily painted
backgrounds, greyish shading on the face, and use of opaque white on
the costume of his sitters.

Looking at the two miniatures above and the enlargements of the faces below,
 they would appear to be by the same artist.
 Note the same treatment of the eyes and the upper eyelash line,
 a rectangular shape of the nostril shading and the 'dotting' along the mouth line 

If one looks closely at enlargements of Daniel miniatures in
past auctions, one can pick out some differences, including some of
those mentioned above.   But as to which brother is which, that is
another story!

When we opened the first miniature 

we discovered that Daniel used a 'trick'of the trade' 
and had painted two small black dots on the back of the ivory
 to make the eyes look darker on the painting.
 He also added a little 'rouge' to give an extra red glow to the cheeks.
Interestingly, the second miniature did not have this extra treatment
so it would appear the artist only applied this trick
 if he wasn't satisfied with the finished painting.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


One of the big drawbacks with photography in its early days was the
lack of colour.  This was overcome with hand colouring of the prints.
Sometimes the colourist was an artist who wanted to supplement his or
her income, or provide a cheaper alternative to a client. Some clients
specifically requested this service.  Others learned their trade at a
photographic studio.  Some colourists then went on to become
successful artists in their own right, including Walter Saunders Barnard, Ernest Widdas, Ada Whiting and Walter Herbert Wheeler (the latter artist becoming well known for his equestrian paintings. It is not known whether he painted miniatures)

Famous Swiss enamel painter John Graff specialised in the so-called Rajah watch portraits. 
 Few people realised that he was overpainting photographic images

Overpainted photograph by Katurah Collings
 showing the shadow of the photographic print underneath

Charming photominiature c.1905 by Arthur Hands

Two basically coloured photographs  probably of husband and wife 
c.1940 signed SM

Two cleverly coloured photographs c.1950 by Alan Shayle

In their day, there was no intention to deceive on the part of those who worked as colourists for photographic studios and on their own account.  However, at the height of the revival of the Grand Tour of Europe at the turn of the 20th Century, many prints were hastily overpainted and framed, usually featuring reproductions of Old Masters, and passed off as the real thing to unsuspecting tourists. Some were cheekily signed 'Reinolds' or 'Roi' or even 'Cosway'!
More recently, an overpainted photograph of a miniature of a soldier by Frederick Buck was allegedly sold at a UK auction as a portrait miniature painted on card!