Art in MiniatureMiniature Art Exhibition

Commissioning a Portrait Miniature

All images are © the respective artists; Artists are listed alphabetically with descriptions and information written by Caroline Hayes, Wes Siegrist or provided by the artists.

A hand painted miniature portrait is a unique record of the sitter, and can become a family heirloom, forming a lasting memory for many hundreds of years. Before the advent of photography portraits such as these were commissioned to be carried as reminders of those left at home, or given as signs of favor. In the early days only the richest families could afford such portraits, but today there is no reason why anyone reading this should not be able to commission one of their own. A miniature portrait by one of today's leading artists is a family treasure that will appreciate in value in time to come.

Portrait miniaturists will almost always work from a selection of good clear photographs, so do not be put off if the painter of your choice lives too far away to meet in person!

If you are thinking of commissioning a portrait you need to consider a number of points:

First, your budget!: Contemporary portrait miniatures will cost between £500 and £2,500 (Pounds Sterling) or $500 to $2,500 (US Dollar) depending upon the artist and aspects of the commission

What medium would you prefer? Look at all the alternatives outlined below and make your choice!

Bases: Depending on the medium used, paintings can be done on board, paper, or ivorine, a man-made surface that looks and behaves like ivory. "Recycled" ivory, in the form of, for instance, old piano keys, may be used but always costs a good deal more. Vellum made from calf or goat skin is commonly used.

Framing: A miniature portrait is always supplied ready-framed. Metal frames are gold, gold plated or brass and may be circular, rectangular or the traditional oval. Wooden frames may also be used.

Time-scale: A miniature portrait, in spite of its size, can take several weeks or longer to complete. Commissions may take a few months depending on other commitments of the artist.

How to proceed with a commission: If you think you would like to commission one of these artists, think about the choices showcased below and contact them! [For artists with no contact information listed, please email Wes Siegrist.

Miniature silhouette: Dennis Saunders
"Dennis Saunders"
3.5 x 2ins (8 x 5cm)
by June Blyth

Medium: Silhoutte
A traditional style in which the profile of the sitter is drawn and painted in opaque black paint. Highlights of gold, silver or white are added to give an almost three-dimensional effect to the portrait. Some artists include color in the costume.
by Jenny Brooks
4 x 3in (10.6 x 7.62cm)

Medium: Pencil (plumbago)
This is a fairly unusual but very traditional medium dating from the 17th century. The portrait will be monochrome with the most delicate variations of tone and shading.
miniature portrait 'en grisaille' of Sue Burton
"Sue Burton, Co-founder and first President of the Hilliard Society of Miniaturists"
by Heather O. Catchpole

Medium: Painting 'En Grisaille'
A painting 'en grisaille' is done entirely in tones of grey - giving the impression of relief sculpture. Some artists will then apply transparent color over the grey.
miniature portrait in egg tempera
"The Piano Recital - It's Mary's Turn"
by Mona Diane Conner
5 1/2 x 4 1/4in (cm)

Medium: Egg Tempera
Egg tempera is a classic medium from earlier centuries which actually preceded the invention of oil paint, and is still in use today. With egg tempera, the building up of many fine layers allows for qualities of translucency and luminosity in portraiture, as well as fine details. It is generally painted on vellum or gessoed panel.
The High Sheriff of Cornwall 1996-1997 Mrs. Jill Trench Morison
"The High Sheriff of Cornwall 1996-1997 Mrs. Jill Trench Morison"
(incorporating enamelled gold inscription)
by Gillie Hoyte Byrom
Hand-painted vitreous enamel on copper set in gilt frame 3 x 2.5in (7.5 x 6.5cm)

Medium: Enamel
An enamel portrait may have all the luminosity of watercolor but will be more durable. The vitrified (melted glass) enamel paint is fired in stages on to copper or gold (which will be more expensive) at a temperature of 850 degrees centigrade in a kiln. Portraits may be incorporated into enamel boxes or framed as miniatures on a velvet mount. They need no glass.
miniature painting "Man with beard" by Elizabeth Meek
"Man with Beard" by Elizabeth Meek
3.25 x 4.5in (8.2 x 10.5cm)

Medium: Oil
A miniature oil portrait will have a more robust character, although the detail will be just as meticulously fine as a watercolor painting.
miniature portrait: Sir Richard Dobbs KCVO
"Sir Richard Dobbs KCVO" by Bill Mundy
2.5 x 3.5in (6.4 x 8.9cm)

Medium: Watercolor
This is the traditional medium for miniatures in past centuries. The effect will be delicate and sometimes almost transparent, so that the underlying pale surface may show through. This will give a luminous quality particularly to skin tones.
Portrait Miniature painting: Sarah
"Sarah" by Rachelle Siegrist
2 x 2in (5 x 5cm)

Medium: Opaque Watercolor
Traditional watercolor with the inclusion of white gouache to add body to the pigment. Strong color on a variety of surfaces with delicate effects and blending. On some surfaces it may be framed without glass using U/V acrylic varnish.
Click here for a listing of miniaturists known to do commissions

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This website,, was established May 1996 by Caroline Hayes. As of June 2012, it is maintained by Wes Siegrist. Images on this website were used by permission by Caroline Hayes and/or Wes Siegrist.

Artwork courtesy of the artists; Photos of MASF Exhibitions courtesy Wes Siegrist;