Women's History

Mansion [Andre Leon Larue] | Letters Upon the Art of Miniature Painting

  • First edition of this guide to miniature painting designed for the education of young ladies. The author, Andre Leon Larue was born in 1785 and known professionally as Mansion. The son of a portrait painter, he worked as a miniaturist and also achieved remarkable results as a tinter of photographs during the 1840s and 50s. This was his first book on painting; the second was The Principles and Practice of Harmonious Colouring in Oil, Water, and Photographic Colours on Paper, Glass and Silver Plate. The present volume was reviewed by The Gentleman's Magazine as "a pleasing and useful assistant to the young student, affording much instruction in all departments of the art; with a short sketch of the various merits of many of the Old Masters, and most of the eminent modern ones".

    At the time this book was published miniature painting was considered an important accomplishment for young upper-class women, a demonstration of moral virtue and elevated aesthetic sensibility. Painting guides provided technical information but also "took pains to situate both the reader-cum-painter and the product within a social and cultural milieu of aestheticized gentility". In this case, Mansion has written the guide not solely as a technical manual, but as a story with a young female protagonist whose "adventures and relationships grounded the sentiments associated with miniatures in narrative and dialogue" and whose "progress as a painter, specifically as a miniaturist, unfolded apace with her progress as a young lady" (Kelly, Republic of Taste, p. 110).

  • London and Paris: R. Ackerman; L. Janet, [1822]. 12mo. Original pink boards, printed paper label to spine. Frontispiece and  hand-coloured folding plate. Near-contemporary ownership inscription dated 1842. Boards rubbed and tanned at the edges with some small marks and spots, spine browned, ends of spine worn and chipped, corners bumped and worn, a few lights spots to early and late leaves, otherwise contents fresh. A very good copy.