Monday 1 February 2010
How to make a miniature ivory portrait.
This information is taken from the V&A website.
The pallettes and paints belonged to the miniaturist George Engleheart (1750-1829)who was a contemporary of Jane Austen.
“THE LITTLE BIT OF IVORY ON WHICH I WORK.”
From 1700 miniaturists began to paint on ivory. The sheets of ivory were cut lengthways from an elephant's tusk and at first were 1 mm thick. By the 1760s the ivory was cut so thinly that the sheets were translucent.
Ivory is difficult to paint on in watercolour as it is quite greasy and non-absorbent, but miniaturists developed ways around this. They roughened the surface lightly with sandpaper or powdered pumice stone, and bleached the ivory in the sun to make it whiter. Some miniaturists degreased the ivory with vinegar and garlic, or by pressing it between sheets of paper with a hot iron.
Since it is difficult to use watercolour on ivory, miniaturists learned to prepare their paint by using more gum arabic to make it stickier. They also discovered that adding the liquid from the gall bladder of a cow or bull made the watercolour flow easily. This allowed greater freedom when using the brush.
Most artisits would have bought their materials. By the 1760s William Reeves, was selling paintboxes with ready-made tablets or 'cakes' of watercolour in his shops.
These are some of the tools the miniaturist working on ivory would use.
Tony is a retired teacher. He is a volunteer at The Museum of The Home (Geffrye Almshouses) in Shoreditch, where he gives tours of the almshouses. Tony enjoys writing his blog which covers subjects he feels strongly about. He also writes posts about Jane Austen for Austen blogs world wide.