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Child Holding a Book

n.d. Unidentified watercolor on ivory image (oval): 2 7/8 x 2 1/8 in. (7.3 x 5.4 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Bequest of Mary Elizabeth Spencer 1999.27.53 Not currently on view

Luce Center Label

It is not always possible to identify the sitter in a miniature portrait, and research is still being done on some of the works in the Museum’s collection. Miniatures became popular in England during the early 1700s, commissioned by wealthy families on the occasions of births, engagements, weddings, and bereavements. These paintings, elaborately set into lockets or brooches, provided the wearer with a sentimental connection to a loved one. The back of the miniature often revealed a lock of the sitter’s hair, symbolizing affection, commitment, or loss. The daguerreotype, invented in 1839, provided a cheaper, faster alternative, and portrait miniatures grew less popular. At the turn of the twentieth century, with the establishment of the American Society of Miniature Painters, miniatures enjoyed a brief revival.


Figure female - child - waist length

Object - written matter - book

painting - miniature

paint - watercolor