Peter Stroely portrait miniature sees 256% increase

A circa 1826 portrait miniature by celebrated German-born miniature portraitist Peter Eduard Stroely has auctioned for £18,750 ($28,505) at Bonhams' sale of Fine Portrait Miniatures in London.

portrait miniture auction
A rare portrait miniature by German-born painter Peter Eduard Stroely of an untitled young lady led Bonhams' auction

The price represents a strong 256.3% increase on the delicate miniature's £8,000 ($12,160) top estimate.

The exceptional price achieved could, in part, be attributed to the fact that Bonhams chose this particular miniature, featuring an unknown young lady, to grace the cover of its auction catalogue, testifying to its quality.

May 30 saw nearly 200 miniatures cross the block; the earliest examples on offer proving the most popular among collectors.

An elaborately encased portrait of Lieutenant-General Charles Neville (1760-1837) also put in a good performance, bringing £10,000 ($15,208).

portrait minitures auction
Charles Neville was the illegitimate son of Edmund Rolfe (1738-1817) of Heacham Hall, Norfolk, and Julia de Martino of Lausanne, Switzerland

Intimate and portable, the origins of portrait miniatures are hazy. However, in the late 1530s Henry VIII gave court painter Hans Holbein the Younger the job of painting a portrait of his wife-to-be Anne of Cleves.

Holbein returned from the Dutchy of Cleves not with a full sized portrait, but with a tiny water colour on vellum (now on display in the V&A).

Although very taken with the portrait, Anne of Cleeves has gone down in history as "the Flanders mare", as Henry seems to have considered her horrendously ugly.

Anne was never crowned queen consort and the pair's marriage was swiftly annulled on the grounds of non-consummation.

Displayed to potential suitors throughout the 18th century (considered the "golden age" of portrait miniaturism), and often given away as love tokens, the history of portrait miniatures is spiked with romance.

Gentleman's miniatures disguised as pocket watches were created in order that a man could carry the image of his mistress about his person without his wife finding out.

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