miniature - A representational work of art made on a greatly reduced scale (sometimes as a toy or for a doll's house), and sometimes called a model.
Often refers either to a small picture illustrating a manuscript, or to a portrait painted on paper, ivory, or porcelain.
The word "miniature" originated in the name of a kind of paint. The brilliant red color monks used in decorating medieval manuscripts was called minium (red lead) in Latin, and that art was called miniating. A picture illuminating the text — necessarily small because of the limited space available — was thus called a miniature.
Examples of the second sense of miniature:
Petrus Christus (Netherlandish, active by 1444, died 1475/76), Head of Christ, c. 1445, oil on parchment, laid down on wood, overall 5 7/8 x 4 1/4 inches (14.9 x 10.8 cm), parchment 5 3/4 x 4 1/8 inches (14.6 x 10.5 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.
Sofonisba Anguissola (Italian, c. 1535-1625), Self-Portrait, c. 1555, oil on parchment, 3 1/4 x 2 1/2 inches (8.2 x 6.3 cm), Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The artist holds a medallion inscribed in Latin around the rim: "The maiden Sofonisba Anguissola, depicted by her own hand, from a mirror, at Cremona." Inside the circle is a cryptogram whose entwined letters are included in the name of Anguissola's father, Amilcare. The meaning and original purpose of this enigmatic portrait remain a mystery. See Baroque, circle, cryptic, feminism and feminist art, mirror, oval, and self-portrait.
India, Mughal dynasty, A Lady and a Gentleman Converse, from the Tuti-Nama, c. 1580, opaque watercolor on paper, heightened with gold; mounted on a later album page; Persian text in nastaliq script; chapter heading in kufic script, Worcester Art Museum, MA. See calligraphy.
Riza-i Abbasi (Iranian), A Convivial Party, 1612, paper, gouache, gold, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia. See Islamic art.
Samuel Cooper (English, 1609-1672), Oliver Cromwell, Lord Chief Protector of England (1599-1658), watercolor on vellum, oval, about 2 3/4 x 2 1/4 inches (70 mm x 57 mm). Cooper was one of the leading miniaturists of the 17th century. Oliver Cromwell commissioned Cooper to paint his portrait miniature -- famously realistic, because Cooper captured the thinning Cromwell literally "warts and all."
James Gillray (English, 1757-1815), A Connoisseur Examining a Cooper, c. 1795, stipple engraving. England's King George III — a connoisseur — is seen examining Samuel Cooper's tiny portrait of Cromwell by candlelight. Gillray expresses his disdain for the king by pushing this caricature of him toward the grotesque. Gillray's engraving was produced shortly after the American and French revolutions, when George III had grown unpopular. The artist implies that this king could suffer a fate similar to that of King Charles I: beheaded by Cromwell's supporters in 1649.
Henry Benbridge (American, 1743-1812), Portrait of a Gentleman, c. 1770, watercolor on ivory, 1 1/4 x 1 7/8 inches (3.2 cm. x 4.8 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.
Walter Robertson (American, c. 1750 - 1802), General George Washington, 1794, watercolor on ivory, 3 15/16 x 3 3/16 inches (10 x 8.1 cm), Cincinnati Art Museum, OH.
Also see book, calligraphy, codex, incunabulum, scriptorium, and tricesimo-segundo.