Lees, a British millionaire industrialist put together his collection in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Helped by his friends, the art dealers William and George Agnew, he acquired examples by most of the major artists including Samuel Cooper, the seventeenth-century society painter known as “the Van Dyck in little.” A descendant of Lees is now selling the collection. Presale estimates are mainly in the hundreds and low thousands of pounds but a miniature of Lord Darnley dated 1560 is estimated at £60,000-100,000. It is attributed to Levina Teerlinc, who was the most prominent miniaturist at the time, serving four monarchs from Henry VIII until well into Elizabeth I’s reign. A portrait miniature of Thomas Cromwell from the studio of Hans Holbein, around 1535, carries a presale estimate of £20,000-30,000. Claudia Hill, expert in portrait miniatures at Bonhams auction house, says that portrait miniatures have a following mainly among private collectors and museums in Britain, the US, Germany, France and Switzerland.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as ‘Art in miniature: a true collectors’ market'