The V&A holds the national collection of British portrait miniatures, a unique watercolour art form which developed during the reign of Henry VIII and had its heyday in the reign of Queen Victoria before the rise in popularity of photography. The collection contains over 2000 portrait miniatures with foreign examples acquired to provide a wider context.
Portrait Miniatures: Other Types of Small Portraiture
This section looks at four other small portrait types which competed successfully with the portrait miniature; so-called 'plumbagos', drawn in graphite or ink on vellum; enamels, painted on gold or copper; silhouettes, or as they were called in Britain 'profiles'; and lastly, portraits in watercolour on paper - a quicker and cheaper method than miniature painting.
'Young Man Among Roses' by Nicholas Hilliard (1547–1619)
Nicholas Hilliard's 'Young Man Among Roses' has come to epitomise the romantic vision of the sonnet hero of Shakespeare's England. Tall, with handsome features, curly dark brown hair, and an incipient moustache, he leans with his hand on his heart against the trunk of a tree encircled by a bush of white roses.