Thursday, May 15, 2014

Gifts of Grandeur: A Unique Talc Miniature, c. 1750

Miniature with Talc
Holland, 1750
The Victoria & Albert Museum

We’ve looked at many portrait miniatures over the past few years, but this one—dating to about 1750—is quite special. It’s the sort of portrait that is called a “Talc.” These unusual images were quite a popular amusement which developed around 1650. Talcs, miniature oil paintings, often came in leather cases with an accompanying set of shaped slivers of mica (a mineral known at the time as talc). 

Upon these sheets of the transparent mineral, costume details would be painted so that these could be overlaid upon the portrait as sort of formal, flat dress-up dolls. Some portraits came with up to twenty different “talcs” allowing for numerous costume changes. This one depicts a woman wearing a pink dress with handsome jewelry. The portrait came with twenty different talks of new costumes. It was made in Holland by an unknown artist. The talcs could be inserted into the hinged glass lid of the locket in which the painting has been set.

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