Starr Miniature Collection: Military Portrait Miniatures

November 17, 2007—May 18, 2008

Location: Nelson-Atkins Building, Gallery P27

As armies engaged in wars on land and navies battled at sea, soldiers demonstrated pride in serving their country by commissioning portraits in military regalia. While the reality of war is grim, the images depicted in Military Portrait Miniatures reflect a heroic version of the men whose uniforms and decorations reflected their rank and honors. Spanning the 17th-19th centuries, these miniatures not only celebrated members of the military but also provided those left behind with an image of their loved ones.

Included in this exhibition are leaders who played pivotal roles in military history, as well as soldiers whose names are now unknown. The armor depicted in the portrait of Henry Frederick Howard, Earl of Arundel, may have been worn while he fought alongside King Charles in the English Civil War (1642-51), as the king endeavored to overpower Parliament. General Edmond Ludlow, however, favored Parliament's campaign and signed the 1649 warrant for the king's execution. General Charles Cornwallis also served the British monarchy by leading the royal troops in the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783). His surrender at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781 to George Washington's Continental Army effectively gave America its independence.

The portrait of an anonymous French officer most likely portrays a commander of the French Emperor Napoleon's armies as they fought European powers during the Napoleonic Wars (1803-15). Countering Napoleon's advances for the British Royal Navy was Lord Admiral Exmouth, along with Admiral Pulteney Malcolm, who, after Napoleon's deposition in 1815, guarded against his escape from St. Helena, where he was exiled.

Free admission, no exhibition tickets required.


Image: John Smart, English, b. 1741-1742, d. 1811. Portrait of General Charles Cornwallis, First Marquess Cornwallis, 1792. Watercolor on ivory in brass mount. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John W. Starr and the Starr Foundation, Inc.

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