The Emil S. Kern Collection of Miniatures at the Kunst Museum Winterthur comprises a wealth of internationally acclaimed portrait miniatures, supplemented by works from the Jakob Briner Foundation.
The collection is composed of choice works from the 16th to 19th centuries. Important miniaturists such as Samuel Cooper, Jean Petitot, Heinrich Friedrich Füger and Jean-Baptiste Isabey worked as official portrait painters at European courts. Their portraits of rulers and aristocratic presentation miniatures were status symbols through which social rank was expressed or – quite practically – marriages were arranged.
With the increasing emancipation of the bourgeoisie at the end of the 18th century, the change from a noble class portrait to a society portrait took place. Portrait miniatures were set in precious materials and created for examination in the hand and close to the eye. With their artistic precision and richness of detail, they tell life stories of past eras that continue to fascinate us today.