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Wednesday, March 24, 2010


This comprehensive tutorial was generously contributed by my good friend Stefanie Deutsch, who has been collect- ing antique miniatures for more than ten years, and is currently working on a book on the subject. She is also the author of two books on vintage Barbie dolls: "Barbie, The First 30 Years" (published by Collector Books, the 3rd edition just printed) and "Barbie" (published in the German Battenberg Verlag).

How to Tell "Decorative Miniatures" from "Real Miniatures"

While the trained eye will almost always easily spot a copy, there are a few guidelines anyone can follow that will help to separate the wheat from the chaff:

QUANTITY: If you scan the ebay listings for miniatures, you'll find the same ladies pictured again and again. You may even recognize them as copies of large oil paintings by famous artists. Many of the subjects wear big hats, or have flowers in their powdered hair. Other giveaways are their facial features, which were painted to suit the ideal of beauty at the time. For instance, "18th century" ladies may have late 19th century tiny little pouty "kissing mouths."

THE FRAME: Miniatures in piano key frames are a telltale sign of a mass-produced item (looking at tens of thousands of miniatures throughout the years, I have found only one real miniature that was later put into one of these frames). As a matter of fact, one can say that the more decorative the frame, the greater the chance that the miniature is not real. Old pieces were framed mostly in simple metal or wood frames. Most medium-quality early 19th century miniatures (the heyday of this art form), were presented in simple black rectangular frames with metal "acorn" hangers. Some copies of miniatures in these type of frames were (and still are) made to deceive, but those are rare.

Stay tuned for Part IV of PORTRAIT MINIATURE BUYING GUIDE ... to be posted tomorrow.

Interested in buying or selling miniature portraits? You can contact Stefanie directly at:

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