Junior Jamie Franco will visit European museums
in hopes of attributing works
A Johns Hopkins University undergraduate student is off to Europe in search of answers surrounding the works of an obscure 16th century English miniaturist. Jamie Franco hopes that by careful examination she can prove her theory that some portrait miniatures have not been properly attributed to the female painter Levina Teerlinc.
She also believes that some inferior works now attributed to Teerlinc were actually painted by someone else. Her work is being funded by a Provost's Undergraduate Research Award, a Hopkins program that stimulates and encourages advanced research by undergraduates.
"Art history has always been a passion of mine, and I couldn't let it fall by the wayside," she said recently. "I think culture is as important as politics and diplomacy."
Franco, who is double majoring in political science and art history, developed an interest in 16th-century English portrait miniature painting a year ago and began looking into the field. What she found fascinated her and spurred her last fall to do an independent study project. She ended up focusing on Teerlinc, a gentlewoman of the Tudor Court and a talented painter whose portrait miniatures were prized by kings and queens. She was also one of the few female portrait miniature painters.
Portrait miniatures were very small, full-color illuminated paintings that were highly prized among royalty and the aristocracy as very personal items--sort of the wallet-size snapshots of that era.
Franco said it was rare for a woman to be included in the highly secretive world of portrait miniature painters, who guarded their techniques and would teach them only to selected proteges. But Teerlinc's father was a portrait miniaturist, and she got introduced to the art that way, said Franco.
Teerlinc painted portrait miniatures of children, friends and family for royals ranging from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I during a very long career, said Franco.
As she studied the scholarship on portrait miniaturists, Franco began to suspect that there were many miniatures that Teerlinc had painted but had not gotten credit for. She also started to believe that some miniatures attributed to Teerlinc were not, in fact, hers. Some scholars were giving Teerlinc credit for inferior works and denying credit for works of superior quality, despite the fact that Teerlinc had painted for a succession of English monarchs.
"Just in the nature of patronage, [the monarchs] wouldn't patronize someone who was not a good draftsman," said Franco.
Complicating the question is the nature of portrait miniatures.
"The thing about the miniatures was [that] they really weren't signed. They weren't like paintings. They were very private things. A lot of the miniatures you're going to find are 'unknown sitter, unknown painter,' " said Franco.
To examine the question in closer detail, Franco decided she should travel to London and Amsterdam to look in person at specific miniatures and examine any records of scientific tests done on the miniatures. She would take a work she is fairly convinced Teerlinc painted and compare the others to it, looking at the nature of the brush strokes.
Franco intends to write an article about her findings and also write a research paper by spring semester. She is excited about getting to the source materials and beginning the next step in her research. "What I have to do when I go to Europe is go to the different museums--one is in Amsterdam, and the rest are in London--that have the miniatures that I think are the ones that could be attributed to Levina and get prints of them and start comparing them to each other and to everything that's out there."
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