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Regency Fashion in Miniature

High-waisted dresses, open-necked shirts, and un-powdered curls abound in the extravagant age of the Regency era (about 1795-1837). A period in Britain associated with the rise of a handsome young prince who became King (George IV) and the work of novelist Jane Austen, this time left its mark on fashion, too.

Many men followed the lead of the romantic poet Lord Byron, whose “Byronic” curls cluster at the front of his head. Women, too, wore their hair in natural curls and followed a style of dress inspired by the classical fashions of Greece and Rome. The Regency era ended in 1837 with the ascension of Queen Victoria, who ushered in a new style that would bring fashion into the twentieth century.

This rotation of portrait miniatures features some of the leading miniaturists of the period including John Smart, Henry Bone, William Essex, and Jean Baptiste Isabey, among others.

The Starr Collection of Miniatures in the Bloch Galleries
Presented to the Nelson-Atkins by Mr. and Mrs. John W. Starr in two major gifts from 1958 and 1965, and numerous additional gifts through the years, the Starr Collection of Miniatures illustrates the history of European portrait miniatures through more than 250 objects. These delicate objects, many of which are painted in watercolor on ivory, include works by Britain’s greatest miniaturists, ranging from the late 1500s to the early 1800s, as well as some very fine examples by European and American artists made during the same time frame.

The exhibition of portrait miniatures in Gallery P24 changes every twelve months to showcase the variety of the collection and also to limit exposure of the light-sensitive pigments.

John Smart, English (1741–1811). Portrait of a Woman, 1807. Watercolor on ivory, 1 ¾ x 1 ½ inches. Gift of the Starr Foundation, Inc., F65-41/48.
Henry Bone, English (1755-1834). Portrait of King George IV of England, 1821. Enamel on copper, 1 ¼ x 1 inches. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John W. Starr and the Starr Foundation, Inc., F58-60/134.