Unknown - portrait of a Italian family

This miniature is unsigned. Initially it was thought to be French or perhaps Spanish in style and probably painted around 1820. However, it is now thought to be Italian.

The frame is not shown here, but is perhaps the most expensive wooden frame in the collection. It is extremely well made of veneered and inlaid rosewood. The veneering even covers the complete rear of the portrait. At each corner of the rear, there are "butterfly" dowels to hold it together.

As the portrait is of five family members it would have been expensive when it was painted. Miniature painters often doubled their standard price when there were two sitters in a portrait, and here we have five.

The girl on the left is holding a string tied to a butterfly, which can be seen silhouetted against the baby's collar.

More recently, I have become aware that there is a miniature shown here and painted by the Italian artist Giambattista Gigola in 1807, which is in the collection of the Museo Poldi Pezzoli of Milan, Italy.

The pose and style is completely different, so there is no real similarity, except that miniature also features four children, one of who is also holding a butterfly on a string. Later copies of the Gigola miniature show the butterfly replaced by a string of pearls, so it seems there may have been a reaction against the practice.

Nevertheless, these are the only instances I am aware of where a child has a butterfly on a string and hence that makes them unusual. Thus it seems probable the miniature shown here is Italian in origin, rather than French or Spanish. 1182

1 comment:

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