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Their flat designs, richly textured and minutely detailed, often incorporated allegorical and gilded heraldic motifs.
In 17th- and 18th-century Western portrait miniatures, the two-dimensional pattern of rich colours was developed by atmospheric tonal modeling into more naturalistic representations; these were sometimes in pastel and pencil or painted in oils on a metal base.
The medieval Gothic style of illumination, in sinuous, linear patterns of flattened forms isolated against white or gilded grounds, had developed, by the end of the 15th century, into exquisitely detailed, jewel-like miniatures of shaded figures and spatial landscapes.
These were often framed by gilded initial letters as vignettes or by margin borders in simulated half relief.
The introduction of painted ivory miniatures was followed, in the 19th century, by a decline in aesthetic standards, although a classical simplicity was achieved by unsophisticated itinerant limners and by the German miniaturist Patricius Kittner.
The painted miniature was eventually superseded by the small, hand-tinted photograph.
Among the exponents of this naturalistic style were Francisco Goya, Fragonard, Samuel Cooper, and François Dumont.
Among the earliest surviving forms of manuscript painting are the papyrus rolls of the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, the scrolls of Classical Greece and Rome, Aztec pictorial maps, and Mayan and Chinese codices, or manuscript books.
European illuminated manuscripts were painted in egg-white tempera on vellum and card.
Although these wooden boards are sometimes categorized as a form of “decorative” rather than “fine” art, the best examples justify their place in museums alongside great easel paintings.
Among the functions they originally served were as predellas (the facings to altar-step risers); devotional and ceremonial icons; portable, folding diptych and triptych altarpieces; shop and tavern signboards; mummy cases; and panel decorations of carriages, musical instruments, and cassoni.