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Part of The American Wing
Robert Fulton (American, Little Britain, Pennsylvania 1765–1815 New York)
Date: ca. 1813Accession Number: 14.135
Mary Roberts (died 1761)
Date: ca. 1752–58Accession Number: 2007.61
Theodora W. Thayer (1868–1905)
Date: 1900Accession Number: 06.296
Benjamin Trott (ca. 1770–1843)
Date: ca. 1825Accession Number: 1992.30.1
John Carlin (American, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1813–1891 New York)
Date: 1845Accession Number: 2006.235.23
Thomas Seir Cummings (American (born England), Bath 1804–1894 Hackensack, New Jersey)
Date: ca. 1835Accession Number: 65.180
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The tradition of miniature painting—tiny watercolor portraits on ivory—emerged in America in the eighteenth century. Based on European models, portrait miniatures are related to ancient and medieval devotional paintings and illuminated manuscripts. Originally made to be worn or carried, each is inextricably tied to its function as memento, love token, or reliquary. The works in this gallery portray husbands, wives, lovers, and children, both living and dead, and commemorate births, deaths, and marriages. The miniatures have been placed in a range of mounts, including metal lockets, other types of jewelry, and pocket-sized leather cases. After the invention of the daguerreotype in 1839, many miniaturists abandoned their art, but some chose to compete with photography. A later revival of the tradition endured into the early decades of the twentieth century.
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