How to Identify Rufus Porter Miniature Portraits
Porter miniatures are painted in profile and full frontal views, profiles being more common.
Shown on the right is miniature profile portrait of an unidentified sitter in the Rufus Porter Museum Collection
which demonstrates many of the hallmarks of Porter’s hand.
Ear: Gray interior of ear that forms a ‘C’; heart shape form of the lower interior back of the ear.
Eyes: Eyelashes are straight out from lid and mid tone in color; eyeball on profile is football
shaped and the pupil is a straight slash down not a dot; eye iris is outlined on full faced
miniatures and pupil is more rounded.
Lips: Brown red line delineating lip separation.
Skin: Flesh is painted in — the paper will discolor but the paint only becomes more visible
as the paper deteriorates, depending on how much flesh tone pigment was used. Women were
generally paler and the men ruddier in complexion. In later portraits Porter used graphite
shading to show neck, chin, and ear shadowing in addition to watercolor.
Hair: Hairstyles of sitters was in the fashion of the French nobility — female sitters were often
painted to include add-on corkscrew curls and tortoiseshell combs and the men often had close cut
forward combed hair styles and Porter would show whiskers, neck hair and sideburns.
Porter kept the focus on the sitter’s faces by downplaying clothing details like vests and ascots,
ruffles and pleats, focusing attention on the sitter’s face.
For further reading:
Porter miniature portraits.