Current Projects

Saturday, September 17, 2016

18th Century Miniature Portraits - Marie Antoinette

So, as promised, the mini portraits for the French Revolution Zombaes.

I did a lot of research on 18th century miniature portraits and other related jewelry (Pinterest boards here and here) and decided on a few details I wanted: round/oval, symmetrical, silver, fairly simple design, and sparkly.  Georgian jewelry can get quite elaborate and is quite varied (The Pragmatic Costumer has excellent posts here and here and here), but I wanted something a bit more subtle: upper-class but not royal, and that I could reuse on other costumes.  I found these from Beyond the Basics on Etsy.
They hit everything on my list except color (which isn't a deal-breaker and is an easy fix anyway), and as a bonus the little shapes around the edge look a bit like fleur-de-lis.  Who can say no that that?

For the portraits themselves, my friend and I chose these:
By Joseph Kreutzinger, 1771
Copy of the original by Louise Èlisabeth Vigèe Le Brun, 1785 
I followed American Duchess's awesome portrait tutorial as a starting point and then kind of veered off as I played with other techniques.  After prepping the images (scaling, printing, cutting as per the tutorial), I popped the pictures into the setting without glue and did some comparison tests with the surface: brushed Mod Podge, stippled Mod Podge, and sticky domes.  The domes looked okay, but for this I preferred the stippled Mod Podge.
It helped hide some of the graininess and lines from the so-so print job, and made the portraits look more painterly.  I'm not sure how it would hold up to water, but I don't plan to get these wet, and it looks pretty darn cool anyway.  (Also, if you go this route and have the surface plain instead of using a dome, I still highly recommend having a dome of the correct size on hand for tracing the image before you cut it out.)

When that was finalized I pulled the test images out and glued the real images into the settings with Mod Podge, then stippled the front.  I forget how many layers I did, but it's really just a matter of personal choice and aesthetic.  I had planned to leave the setting its original brassy color, but decided in the end to make it silver after all.  For that I used some silver acrylic I had sitting around and lightly (and carefully!) drybrushed it over the fleur-de-lis shapes and the raised rim around the portrait.  I was a little too heavy-handed on mine (1780s big-hair Marie) but it still looks alright.  The silver paint has already rubbed off the setting loop just from handling it while I attached the bows, but the rest has held up.  Silver Rub 'n Buff might be a better option next time.

The bows are 1.5" satin ribbon.  I maybe should have used a grosgrain instead, but I wasn't thinking about it when I dashed into the craft store 10 minutes to closing to grab this really fast.  So I've just told myself to pretend it's silk strips.  The front bow is a single piece that I ran through the loop and stitched together in the back, and the back bows are actually two separate pieces sewn into half loops and stitched down on each side.  I might add some tails depending on how much more floof our dresses need, but for now this works.

What a saucy young lady!

I don't know why this Marie keeps photographing such weird colors -  this is the least yellow-orange out of every photo I took - but she's much nicer looking in person.
This was a super fun and easy project, and I can already see myself going crazy and doing portraits of EVERYONE.  Don't be surprised if you see some more historical personages popping up from time to time.