Saturday, August 9, 2014

Tika Learns About Limners

Tika well knows my interest in American history, especially of the colonial era. I was telling her about a new word I learned: limner. I spotted this word in reference books about early Virginia and I wanted to know more. 
Wise Tika said, "Go to Wikipedia!" So I did. "A limner is an illumiator of manuscripts, or more generally, a painter of ornamental decoration. In old-time Scotland, there was an official position of Her Majesty's Painter and Limner. In early 19th-centurey America, a limner artist was one who had little if any formal training and would travel from place to place to solicit commissions. Among colonial America's rising mercantile class, a limner-portrait was considered a status symbol." 
Here is an example of an early American limner-portrait. In this painting, you can guess that the lady is a widow (wearing black) and holding a pendant-cameo-painting of her late husband. 
(Thanks to Commons.Wikimedia for this pix.)

I read somewhere else that these painters would paint all the background and figures and dress of the people while in his studio and then just meet the people to paint in the faces. That makes sense. Can you see that little boy sitting still for long enough to paint his portrait?
Tika and I would bet that you have seen pictures or portraits similar to this......... perhaps you have one such painting of your ancestor? (Lucky you, if so!) And now we know what a limner was.

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