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Portrait Miniature of a Lady

Dressed Portrait Miniature of a Lady by Mary Way; Courtesy of Christie’s Images, Ltd. 2009.

This is a blog about the art of the dressed miniature, a form of portrait miniature created and perfected by the New London, Connecticut artist Mary Way (1769-1833).

Way created what are now commonly referred to as ‘dressed’ portrait miniatures. Like tiny paper dolls with exquisite detail, Way applied fabric to the surfaces of her miniature portraits to make them appear dressed. Though the tradition of applying fabric to paper was not new, Mary Way transformed the technique into something exceptional.

As a young woman, Way received no formal art training and instead harnessed her creativity and the feminine traditions around her to create her singular work. She never married, choosing instead to forge ahead independently to New York City where she worked as an artist and art instructor.

Too soon, Way’s eyesight degraded to the point of total blindness and she was forced to return to her New London home. Although her career was cut short, in the duration of her productive years she created an outstanding body of work and a provocative series of letters which still exist today.

Together, Way’s work and words represent a rich historical legacy – one that provides us with an uncommon glimpse into the life and mind of an innovative early American woman artist.


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