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Thursday, 13 March 2014

Mini-me Mini-you; Miniatures at Waddesdon

Everybody loves miniature things- from the Horniman Museum's miniature dogs (feat. in this article I wrote for 1883 Magazine), to miniature food (mini burgers anyone?), to those tiny useless rubbers everyone played with in primary school, it seems that our brains are hard wired to respond to the small and the vulnerable. Tiny objects allow us to be protective, and, reciprocally, make us feel powerful. 

At Waddesdon we have some amazing tiny things; teeny weeny furniture, cups, animals, little men. But the objects I want to throw a spotlight on this week are the collection of miniature paintings, due to go on display for the first time in years at the start of next season (March 26th).

Why, hello there.
Peter Oliver (c.1594-1647), Portrait of an unknown man, 1627, watercolour on vellum © The National Trust, Waddesdon Manor

Whilst studying at Oxford, I was lucky enough to be taught by Hanneke Grootenboer, an Art Historian who has written a flurry of brilliant essays on the miniature. She always talks about the intimacy of these images- little visions of your lover, your queen or your kin, thumbed over, kissed and held. 

I like to think that some of the unknown men in our portraits gave these images to their lovers, who apparently liked the 'pallid, been out all night look'. Check out that ruff! I, for one, am hoping for a revival... 

Who? Me?
Atrributed to Isaac Oliver (c.1565-1617), Anne of Denmark, c.1605, watercolour on vellum© The National Trust, Waddesdon Manor

This attractive lady is Queen Anne of Denmark, who married King James VI of Scotland (later James I of England) when she was just fourteen. History books haven't been too kind to her- she has often been written off as frivolous- but her great patronage of the arts defines our vision of Jacobean England. She also wore some pretty fantastic gear, this flowery concoction included. 

Jared Leto, anyone?
Samuel Cooper (1609-1672), Portrait of a Young Man (Possibly Lord Fauconberg), 1662, watercolour on vellum © The National Trust, Waddesdon Manor

This gentlemen is perhaps a little more to my taste than ol' bug eyes above (although, we're clutching at straws here). Cooper, the artist, was famed for his portraits of Oliver Cromwell, and there's something slightly dictator-esque about this gentlemen, although we think that the sitter could be Lord Fauconberg, who married Cromwell's third daughter, Mary and loved a centre parting. Lord Fauconberg, or J. Leto, it's a toss-up. 

The real mystery isn't 'who is this', but 'what is he leaning on'
After Gerlach Flicke (fl. 1545-1558, Portrait of a Man, 1569, watercolour on vellum © The National Trust, Waddesdon Manor

And then this man- who I'd definitely keep on my chain. The motto written on the armillary sphere reads 'SO.CHE.IO.SONO', which my big sister has kindly translated for me as 'I know I am understood'. Sounds like just my kind of guy.... 

Next week I'll be preparing for opening, so get excited for lots of covers coming off, and secrets being revealed

Catch you on the flip side! 


  1. I loooooove these miniatures, Anne of Denmark was so pretty, is she really just 14 in that portrait? I do love how long distance relationships came about when they had nothing to go on but word of mouth and a tiny portrait of their betrothed! Imagine that these days!

    Sarah :)
    Saloca in Wonderland

    1. The portrait would have been done just after her 30th birthday, so no longer the young queen.
      My dad still has a picture of my mum in his wallet... so I suppose not everything changes!
      E x

  2. Ah this post makes me miss my art history classes! So interesting! Keep it up :)

    That Curious Cat

  3. I think more "I know I am understood" rather than intense...

    Nice blog!

    Flora x