New Beaded Portrait Miniatures and Mourning Brooches

I have been fascinated by the beauty of antique portrait miniatures since my first visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Uffizi in Florence. I am no expert on the subject but from what I have learned over the years is that they were often given as a keepsake by a loved one and were popular until the development of photography. Also referred to as mourning portraits they were given as a memento mori to mark the passing of a loved one or in the vanitas style of the day meant to remind the recipient of the transience of life.

Metropolitan Museum of Art Portrait Miniatures

Here are 2 beautiful examples from the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection.  A fascinating variation of the Portrait Miniature is the Eye Portrait.  Given as love tokens, having only the eye painted kept the identity of the subject a secret to everyone but the beloved recipient. I find the idea of this clandestine gift giving so touching .

 Some examples of Georgian Lover's Eye Brooches

Some examples of Georgian Lover's Eye Brooches

My fascination with this art form led me to design a contemporary version using my own animal portraits which already have a Victorian theme. I was first introduced to the art of bead work by costume designer Ramona Ponce. I remember watching her doing her intricate bead work and just itching to get my hands into a big jar of glistening glass beads! It wasn't until I saw the embroidered bird brooches of Conieco and the whimsical wall hangings of Rebecca Purcell that I began to imagine how beautiful the combination of Victorian animal portraits and bead work could be. All the following ornaments are available in a round or oval format in my Etsy shop Curious Portraits.

 Here is a sample of my first set of portrait miniatures. I used the eye from my Deer Portrait as I thought it was the most alluring of all the animals!

Here is a sample of my first set of portrait miniatures. I used the eye from my Deer Portrait as I thought it was the most alluring of all the animals!

I began with a printed image of the animal and sealed it behind a resin cabochon (as I do in my brooches). I then glue that onto a double sided felt setting with a cardboard insert and a grosgrain hanging ribbon and hand sew the rows of black glass beads, which I import from the Czech Republic. A final layer of felt backing is applied to make it neat and ready to hang! The round ornaments measure approximately 2 3/4" in diameter and the oval ornaments measure 2 3/8" x 2 3/4".

  Uncle Omelette may be my favorite portrait miniature, his unusual countenance seems perfect for this presentation.

 Uncle Omelette may be my favorite portrait miniature, his unusual countenance seems perfect for this presentation.

 The White Rabbit looks especially good in a round format.

The White Rabbit looks especially good in a round format.

 My Headless Skeleton Ornament should appeal to all you Victoriana and Gothic aficionados out there!

My Headless Skeleton Ornament should appeal to all you Victoriana and Gothic aficionados out there!