Portrait miniatures began to flourish in 16th century Europe and continued through the 17th and 18th centuries. Portrait miniatures were often used to introduce people to each other over distances. Soldiers and sailors would carry miniatures of their loved ones while traveling, or a wife might keep a miniature painting of her husband while he was away. Miniatures became less popular after the development of daguerrotypes and photographs during the second half of the 19th century.
Preserving miniatures on ivory can present a unique challenge. Ivory is hygroscopic, meaning that it readily absorbs and retains moisture. It can easily warp and crack if exposed to extreme temperature and humidity fluctuations. Miniatures are extremely fragile works of art that are easily damaged. Any attempt to remove a miniature painting from its frame or locket housing for any reason should only be done by an experienced conservator. Miniature paintings, as well as other types of art should not be overexposed to any form of light that can cause fading. Lockets and housings should not be sprayed or wiped with household cleaners that might seep out into the case and damage the surface of the painting or corrode the metal casing.