American Portrait Miniatures at the Mead Art Museum, June 18–19, 2009.
Guest Scholar: Robin Jaffee Frank, Yale University Art Gallery.

American Portrait Miniatures


Overview and Schedule

American Portrait Miniatures at the Mead Art Museum was a two-day seminar focusing on the Mead’s collection of portrait miniatures and related issues of pedagogy. The guest scholar was Dr. Robin Jaffee Frank, Alice and Allan Kaplan Senior Associate Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture at the Yale University Art Gallery and author of Love and Loss: American Portrait and Mourning Miniatures (New Haven, 2000).

The first day was an object-based session led by Dr. Frank focusing on portrait miniatures in the Mead and in history. The portrait miniature--often watercolor on vellum or ivory--functioned in a more intimate manner than the traditional, large-scale portrait. Its small dimensions precluded a sizable viewing audience, favoring instead one individual who would possess and behold the object within arm’s length. Dr. Frank led discussions about the functions and place of these portraits within American society, both private and public. 

The second day focused on the pedagogical possibilities of using these objects within a wide range of disciplines. Susan Anderson, Interim Andrew W. Mellon Coordinator of College Programs, and the Mead staff presented complementary objects in the Mead’s collection, including traditional American portraits, American decorative arts, and daguerreotypes. Participants discussed approaches for teaching with objects in an interactive classroom setting. The seminar concluded with a roundtable discussion allowing participants to share their ideas for how these objects could fit into existing syllabi or inspire new courses.

June 18, 2009

Session 1: Introduction
Discussion topics: Public Displays of Private Devotion; The Making of the Miniature

Session 2: The Flourishing of the American Miniature
Discussion topics: “Not Lost but Gone Before”: The Miniature as a Token of Mourning and the Peale Family Legacy; “Your Very Looks and Person in Miniature on my Heart:” The Miniature as a Token of Love

Session 3: The Miniature in the Public Eye
Discussion topics: The Miniature as a Family Heirloom and Edward Greene Malbone’s Legacy; The Miniature as a Site for Joining Biography and Literary Fiction

Session 4: The Miniature as a Token of Civic Pride
Discussion topics: Officers and Gentlemen: The Miniature as a Symbol of Public Allegiance; Private Faces of Public People: When does a portrait of a public person offer a glimpse into private life?

June 19, 2009

Session 1: Guide to Using the Five College Museums/Historic Deerfield Collections Database

Session 2: Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS): Proven Pedagogy for Engaging Students with Works of Art

Session 3: Practicum: Applying VTS to Objects contextualizing the Mead’s Miniatures
Discussion Topics: The Peale Family at the Mead; Familiar Faces: Portraits of Individuals depicted in the Mead’s Miniatures; Transformed by the Camera: The rise of the Daguerreotype, Ambrotype and Tintype; Memorials and Mourning: From Ancient Egypt to the Present Day

Session 4: Roundtable Discussion: Integrating the Mead’s American Portrait Miniatures into Course Curricula


Guest Scholar: Robin Jaffee Frank

Robin Jaffee Frank is the Aliceand Allan Kaplan Senior Associate Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture. She has lectured widely and organized numerous exhibitions. Among her books are Love and Loss: American Portrait and Mourning Miniatures and Charles Demuth Poster Portraits: 1923–1929. Frank co-authored American Daguerreotypes from the Matthew R. Isenburg Collection and contributed to Expressions of Innocence and Eloquence: Selections from the Jane Katcher Collection of Americana and A Private View: American Paintings from the Manoogian Collection. She is also a co-organizer of the traveling exhibition and accompanying publication Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery.

Suggested Readings

Aronson, Julie and Marjorie Wieseman et al. Perfect Likeness: European and American portrait miniatures from the Cincinnati Art Museum.New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006. See especially essays by Linda Baumgarten, “Clothing in Portrait Minatures,” 49-61, and Cynthia Amnéus, “The Art of Ornamental Hairwork,” 63-76.

Deutsch, Davida Tenenbaum. “Jewelry for Mourning, Love, and Fancy, 1770-1830.” Antiques 155 (April 1999): 566-75.

Frank, Robin Jaffee. Love and Loss: American Portrait and Mourning Miniatures. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000.

Johnson, Dale T. American Portrait Miniatures in the Manney Collection. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1990.

Strickler, Susan, assisted by Marianne E. Gibson. American Portrait Miniatures: The Worcester Art Museum Collection. Worcester, Mass.: Worcester Art Museum, 1989.

Selected Bibliography

Aiken, Carol. “The Emergence of the Portrait Miniature in New England.” In Painting and Portrait Making in the American Northeast, The Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife, Annual Proceedings 19, edited by Peter Benes, 30-45. Boston: Boston University, 1995.

Bolton, Theodore. Early American Portrait Painters in Miniature. New York: Frederic Fairchild Sherman, 1921.

Bolton-Smith, Robin. Portrait Miniatures in the National Museum of American Art. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984.

Bury, Shirley. An Introduction to Sentimental Jewellery.Owings Mills, Md.: Stemmer House, 1985.

Coffin, Sarah and Bodo Hofstetter. The Gilbert Collection: Portrait Miniatures in Enamel. London: Philip Wilson Publishers, 2000.

Coombs, Katherine. The Portrait Miniature in England. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1998.

Foskett, Daphne. Miniatures: A Dictionary and Guide. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Antique Collectors Club, 1987.

Parker, Barbara Neville. New England Miniatures, 1750-1850. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1957.

Pointon, Marcia. “Wearing Memory: Mourning, Jewellery and the Body.” In Trauer tragen—Trauer zeigen: Inszenierungen der Geschlechter, edited by Gisela Ecker and Maria Kublitz-Kramer, 65-81. Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 1999.

Pointon, Marcia. “Materializing Mourning: Hair, Jewellery and the Body.” In Material Memories, edited by Marius Kwint et al., 39-57. Oxford and New York: Berg, 2000.

Reynolds, Graham, with Katherine Baetjer. European Miniatures in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1996.

Schorsch, Anita. Mourning Becomes America: Mourning Art in the New Nation. Harrisburg: William Penn Memorial Museum, 1976.

Sumner, Anne and Richard Walker. Secret Passion to Noble Fashion: The World of the Portrait Miniature. Bath: Holburne Museum of Art, 1999.

Verplanck, Anne Ayer. “Facing Philadelphia: The Social Functions of Silhouettes, Miniatures, and Daguerreoptypes, 1760-1860.” Ph.D. diss.,College of William and Mary, 1996.

Wehle, Harry B. American Miniatures, 1730-1850. Garden City, N.Y.: Garden City Publishing, 1927.