This portrait miniature of a young lady is part of a late seventeenth century child’s toy. The toy resembles a set of modern paper dolls. This set is housed in a tiny, brown, tooled and gilded leather book cover, decorated with geometric patterns and stylized leaf and vine forms. The book cover’s two clasps are damaged or missing. The book cover opens to reveal a deep oval cavity on each side surrounded by faded and worn gold stem, leaf, and vine forms on a dark blue painted background. The cavity on the left holds a miniature oil portrait on copper of a young woman. She is portrayed from her head to just below her naked breasts. She has light skin and medium brown, chin length, wavy hair. She has a long oval face with a high forehead, arched brown eyebrows, large hazel eyes, long straight nose, small red lips, and heavily rouged pink cheeks. Her shoulders are narrow and make her body seem disproportionately small for her head and neck. The cavity on the right side of the book’s interior holds 24 different ovals of thin, translucent mica. Each is painted with a different hat, hair, mask or costume. The mica ovals are designed to fit over the miniature portrait to give the young lady an extensive, interchangeable, costume collection. The costumes include a lion skin, a queen’s gold robe with crown and scepter, a soldier’s plumed helmet and scarlet robe, a black wide brimmed top hat with thick scarlet scarf, Hermes’ winged helmet and staff of caduceus, and many others.
Portrait Miniature with Twenty-Three Costumes,
Oil on copper with painted mica overlays
9.5 x 6 x 1.9 cm (3 3/4 x 2 3/8 x 3/4 in.)
Isabella Stewart Gardner kept meticulous records of many of her acquisitions. In keeping with this legacy, object information is continually being reviewed, updated, and enriched in order to give greater access to the collection.