The Starr Collection of European and American Miniatures: The Image and the Object

December 6, 2008—June 7, 2009

Location: Nelson-Atkins Building, Gallery P27

Back of Starr MiniatureRanging from the 18th to the 19th centuries, the miniatures in this exhibition hold a portrait of a person important to the owner, whether in the context of a personal relationship or as admiration for a public figure. The manner in which each of these images is held within its mount can be equally significant.

Considered precious objects, miniatures were incorporated into rings, bracelets, mounts and cases, often employing jewelers' techniques and materials. Enamellers brought brilliant color and shimmer to miniature mounts. Easily portable and sometimes functional, miniatures could be mounted into cases made of ivory or tortoise shell. Lavish settings with pearls and gemstones, whether precious or faux, encircle the sitter with added luster and sparkle.

Human hair was treasured as a memento of the departed, and braided locks were sometimes added to memorial portraits. Employed by jewelers, hairworkers fashioned tresses into elaborate creations, at times incorporating pearls and rhinestone monograms.


Images: William Wood, English, 1769-1810. Portrait of a Young Man, early 19th century. Watercolor on ivory in brass mount with enamel, gold, pearls and hair (verso). Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John W. Starr and the Starr Foundation, Inc. F58-60/167. (Front and back)

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