Location: Nelson-Atkins Building, Gallery P27
Formal portraits have been commissioned from artists for centuries, allowing intimate images of loved ones to be kept close. Small-scale paintings in the form of miniatures not only depict the sitters as attractive and well-dressed, but also show the most current fashions in hairstyles and clothing. Men wear their best jackets, waistcoats and neck cloths, while women display their finest dresses and latest hairstyles. Portrait miniatures, like contemporary prints and paintings, document changes in male and female fashion.
Whether a portrait is painted or captured with a camera, the sitter has most likely made an effort to look as appealing as possible. Sitters are depicted with powdered wigs, brightly colored clothing, or luxurious embellishments such as gold embroidery or lace.
Often the identity of the sitter or personal significance of the miniature has been lost, but occasionally the name and date inscribed on the painting allow us to understand the original context. The miniature of John, 1st Baron Stanley of Alderly was painted in 1796, the year of his marriage. Unfortunately, the occasion of most portrait miniatures are unknown, but it is entertaining to wonder what event caused the likeness to be captured.
Image: Henry Edridge, English, 1769–1821. Portrait of John, 1st Baron Stanley of Alderley, (1766–1850), 1796. Watercolor on ivory. Overall: 2 3/4 x 2 3/16 in. (7 x 5.6 cm). Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John W. Starr and the Starr Foundation, Inc., F58-60/35