Portrait of a Man (formerly called Cowper the Poet)
The reverse side of this miniature, which depicts a man wearing an elaborate turban, includes a celtic knot of blond hair atop a brown braid. Woven, styled in loops, or arranged to resemble flowers or leaves, hair ornamentation on the back of portrait miniatures is a marker of the sentimental nature of these keepsakes and an intricate craft in its own right.
NOMA’s collection includes examples with hair styled into bouquets with gold flowers, laid out with seed pearl initials, or braided into a bracelet.
In the late nineteenth century, hair jewelry worn in tribute to a deceased loved one became popular. Queen Victoria (1819–1901) led this trend. After her husband Prince Albert’s death in 1861, for the remainder of her life the Queen wore a locket with the Prince’s hair and a mourning ring with his micro-portrait.