Get closer: Renaissance watercolours

Since the 1860s, the V&A has been home to the UK's national collection of watercolours and portrait miniatures.

For many painters during the Renaissance, watercolour was the medium of choice. Compared to oil paint, it dries more quickly, and so is better suited for illuminating manuscripts or painting works that are intended to be bound in an album or a sketchbook; it is more portable, which makes it perfect for working in front of the subject and outdoors; and it is versatile, being widely used for designs, copies, preparatory drawings and cartoons (full-size studies).

Here we present a selection of watercolours from the V&A collection in high resolution, allowing you to zoom in and explore these beautiful and intriguing objects in fine detail.

Header image: (Detail) Catherine de’ Medici, portrait miniature, by François Clouet, about 1555, France, watercolour on parchment laid onto card, 6 cm x 4.4 cm. Museum no. P.26-1954. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London