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Luce Foundation Center for American Art

Painting: Miniatures: A Pioneer Woman
A Pioneer Woman

A Pioneer Woman
about 1840
Unidentified artist
watercolor on paper
sight 7 1/2 x 6 in. (19.0 x 15.2 cm) rectangle
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Catherine Walden Myer Fund

Learn about American portrait miniatures 26MB

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.

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