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from the archive
StuartPortrait Miniaturewith Painted Mica Lenses

These little portrait miniatures were a fun dress-up amusement for the aristocracy throughout Europe after 1650. Along with a miniature oil portrait on copper are a series of painted costume details on slivers of mica, which was known at the time as "talc". In our boxed set, there are 11, and they all nestle alongside the portrait within their original leather case. It is one of only 45 known sets in circulation. In France, in the mid-1700s, these early paper dolls were known as "metamorphoses". Some sets represented historical events or intrigues. The woman in the portrait is believed to be Henrietta Marie, Charles 1's wife (and mother to his successors, Charles II and James II) Charles 1 was beheaded in 1649, and wearing mourning jewelry with his likeness was a way to secretly show support for the monarchy. If our little dress-up set is, in fact, the unpopular Catholic queen, then the very act of owning this object was subversive or even dangerous in the late 1600s.


  • Materials

    Leather case, oil painting on copper, 11 mica discs with painted details.

  • Age

    late 1600s or early 1700s

  • Condition

    Good; there is a scratch on the painting's face and we don't know if there were originally more mica discs.

  • Size

    approximately 2" tall

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RelatedHistory Lesson

Stuart Crystal:Jewels for a Martyred King

These jewels were worn discreetly to show one’s support for the beheaded monarch Charles I.