Art in MiniatureMiniature Art Exhibition

The Miniature in History

By Caroline Hayes
Illuminated letter from the Winchester BibleThe art of miniature painting is many hundreds of years old. The earliest examples in the Western world are to be found in the illuminated capital letters of ancient church manuscripts. Decorated often with pure gold leaf, these tiny pictures showed scenes of everyday mediaeval life, scenes from the Bible, or portraits of saints and angels.

After the invention of the printing press, the skill of the illuminators was turned to the painting of exquisite miniature portraits for rich merchants and royalty. These jewel-like works of art were small enough to be held in the palm of the hand and were carried much as we carry family photos today.

With the introduction of photography in the middle of the 19th century, the art of the miniature was in danger of being lost. However, the 20th century has seen a tremendous increase in interest. Today there are many fine miniature painters (and, no, we are not all vertically challenged) covering all subjects under the sun.

Miniatures are still very reasonably priced, and a top quality miniature will sell for between £200 and £5000*.

For further information see Wes Siegrist's excellent site

Illuminated letter from the Winchester Bible (f.148): Master of the leaping figures. Manuscript in Winchester Cathedral Library. Reproduced with kind permission of the Dean and Chapter of Winchester Cathedral.

Miniature art prices typically range from $150-$3,500 in USA exhibitions

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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.