Representations of Self

August 17, 2013—February 23, 2014
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Location: Nelson-Atkins Building, Gallery P27

Free admission

Just as the photographs and digital images of today record important people in our lives, in the past, individuals often commissioned such images in the form of portrait miniatures. In this exhibition, miniatures spanning the 17th-19th centuries illustrate changes in portrait style and how the depiction of self was determined by the sitters and the era in which they lived.

Portrait miniatures can teach us about a variety of subjects including fashion, society, celebrity and romance. This exhibition features assorted dress styles including stiffly starched lace collars, and powdered wigs for both men and women. The sitters for portraits were often of family or close relations, but they also captured notable people such as Louis XIV of France, George Washington and Mohammed Ali, Nawab of Arcot, an Indian governor. Early-19th-century eye miniatures, thought to represent secret loves, produce a sense of mystery, as the representation of self is hidden. Although miniaturists worked in small scale, they conveyed a great deal of information about their subjects.

Image:  John Smart, English, 1741/1742-1811. Portrait of Mohammed Ali, Nawab of Arcot, 1788. Watercolor on ivory. 2 x 1 9/16 inches (5.08 x 3.97 cm). Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John W. Starr, F71-32.

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