The catalogue raisonné of the Museo del Prado's collection of miniatures is the result of a lengthy and exhaustive research project undertaken by the specialist Carmen Espinosa, the author of this publication, in collaboration with technical staff from various departments of the Museum. It will become an important reference text and one that will serve to highlight on a national and international level an art form that experts still consider insufficiently known and studied today.
The catalogue provides a complete compilation and documentation of the 164 miniatures and 16 small portraits in the Museum's collection. This collection was started in 1877 with the entry into the Prado's collection of two miniatures acquired by the State ten years earlier. From then on and through a number of donations, bequests and acquisitions the collection has continued to grow and is now one of the most important in any Spanish museum.
The catalogue starts with an introductory text that includes a study of small portraits painted on playing cards, copper and tin plates. It explains their devotional, domestic and official functions, the latter as gifts of State when incorporated into jewels between the 16th and late 18th centuries. The next text focuses on miniatures painted in tempera and gouache on vellum and on ivory panels which gradually came to replace the earlier small portraits. These works are grouped into schools, within which each miniature is located chronologically on the basis of its date. Works signed by or attributed to the same artist or circle are organised into groups that are headed by a brief biography of the artist. Most of the miniatures are reproduced life-size in the catalogue. At the end of the text is a list of signatures that will be extremely useful for scholars and specialists in this field.
21.8 x 29 cm