The 70 works, mainly from the 18th century, will go on display after a bequest from the estate of the late Dowager Lady Grantchester (1925-2019).
Nine of the miniatures are considered to be ‘masterworks’ by portrait miniature expert Emma Rutherford (who is also a consultant at dealership Philip Mould). Rutherford assisted with the acquisition by the gallery.
Among the artists represented are Isaac Oliver (1560/5-1617), John Hoskins (c.1595-1664), Richard Cosway (1742-1821), Thomas Day (c.1732-c.1807), George Engleheart (1750-1829) and John Smart (1742-1811).
The highlights include a Portrait of a Gentleman by Oliver (above). It had previously been thought to be a picture of Robert Deveraux (2nd Earl of Essex (1566-1601)) however it has been re-catalogued and is currently an unknown sitter.
The works are currently in storage at Christie’s ahead of their display at Compton Verney.
A selection of the miniatures will form part of a new handling collection, to help with engagement with visitors and schools’ groups.
Compton Verney, a Grade I-listed Georgian mansion in 120 acres of Grade II-listed Lancelot 'Capability' Brown parkland to the east of Stratford-upon-Avon, was bought and restored by Lady Grantchester’s brother Sir Peter Moores (1932-2016) in the 1990s.
He converted the manor house into a museum and shared his collection of art and antiques with visitors.
The siblings were the children of businessman, football club owner and philanthropist Sir John Moores, the founder of Littlewoods and the Football Pools.
Although Compton Verney still has Moore’s significant collection of artworks, there had only been one example of a portrait miniature: Samuel Cooper’s portrait of Oliver Cromwell (the ‘Harcourt’ portrait), acquired in 2007.
However, since 2016 the gallery has hosted a rotating selection of portrait miniatures from the 800-strong Dumas Egerton Trust Collection.
Julie Finch, director of Compton Verney, said: “The Grantchester Collection will bring both additional quality and quantity to the genre of portrait miniatures, which has traditionally been somewhat under-represented in Compton Verney’s permanent collection.”
Portrait miniatures were popular throughout the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries and created to be held in the hand or worn close to the heart, in the form of jewellery.