Margaretha Heitz-Bachofen and Martin Bachofen portrait in an auction selling portrait miniatures

How to Sell Portrait Miniatures with Sotheby's

Portrait Miniatures Consigned with Sotheby's

Get a Portrait Miniatures Estimate

Get a Portrait Miniatures Estimate

Wonder how much your 19th century miniature painting might be worth and how to sell it? Simply follow the steps below and Sotheby's will recommend the best approach for selling your portrait miniatures.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • When is the best time to sell my portrait miniature?
    Exceptional decorative accessories such as European portrait miniature art are in demand throughout the year. Sotheby's British Watercolours & Drawings department hosts Portrait Miniature sales in London in May and November highlight the work of artists at the forefront of the Continental European schools. We also hold a dedicated Orientalist sale in London in late April. In New York, Sotheby’s European Art auctions coincide with our Impressionist & Modern Art sales in the spring and autumn, as well as our Old Master sales in January, and showcase the most important works of the period from both Continental and British schools. With so many selling opportunities, there’s no better time to consign a painting with Sotheby's.
  • What is a miniature painting or portrait worth?
    Each tiny treasure known as a portrait miniature is valuable because it tells a story. These small works became popularized during the reign of Queen Elizabeth l and were widely appreciated throughout Great Britain by the 18th century. The earliest works were executed in watercolour on vellum. Then monochromatic plumbago portraits were introduced, and later ivory and enamel on metal were preferred. It was common for military men heading to battle to commission their likenesses in miniature form as a memento for their loved ones. In the 19th century, portrait miniatures were often painted on ivory and enamel.
  • Is my tiny painting valuable even if I do not see a signature?
    Sotheby's British Watercolours & Drawings experts have decades of experience in appraising and identifying masterpieces from portrait miniature artists. The department sells and values a wide range of miniature paintings as well as works on paper from the Golden Age of British Watercolours (1750–1850) up until the late 19th century Victorian era, including works by artists such as Gainsborough, Cozens, Constable and Turner. Even without a signature, Sotheby's specialists can attribute paintings to important artists, based on the costumes and hairstyles of the subject. Simply submit clear photographs of the front and back of your miniature oil painting or watercolour painting and our specialists will carefully review the work and can inform you whether it is attributable to a known artist.
  • Which types of portrait miniatures are most valuable?
    Desirable miniature artwork by miniaturists Nicholas Hilliard, Isaac Oliver, Peter Oliver, Samuel Cooper, Richard Cosway, John Smart, George Engleheart, Robert Thorburn, Sir William Charles Eduardo Moira, Rosalba Carriera, Jean Petitot, Pierre Louis Bouvier, Bernard Lens, Henry Bone, Augustin Dubourg, Francois Dumont, Jean-Baptiste Isabey, Heinrich Friedrich Fuger, Jean-Urbain Guerin, Louis-Marie Autissier, Nicholas Lawrence, Jean-Etienne Liotard, Jacques Antoine Marie Lemoine, Jan Frans Dael and Friedrich Zincke are especially coveted by today’s collectors. Collectible portrait miniatures were often presented as tokens of love, military or political gifts and sometimes worn as portrait miniature jewelry. If the sitter is a royal or historic figure, the value could be considerably higher. Of course, 19th century portraits embellished with gemstones, pearls and gold are especially collectible.