In the15th century, during the Italian Renaissance, pictures were not painted but found using bronze. Pisanello had worked after roman example and he had coined coins. They were so little and pretty and ideal for a little gift. This was yet before of the copperplate engraving.
50 years later 100 medals were coined as a souvenir for the visit of Anne of England with her picture and the picture of Charles VIII.
In Germany about 1570 little pictures were coined on round metal discs and like gifts were packed in elegant and decorated little boxes of wood.
Nobody knows exactly when the first miniature was painted in England. Perhaps it began under the rule of Henry VIII. The King wanted get married to ANNE de CLEVES and he gave his "court painter" HANS HOLBEIN the order to paint a portrait in miniature of the young Lady. She was the 3rd wife of Henry VIII.
It was custom in England to say the word "Limning" for a miniature which was painted.
In France: "ENLUMINER"---Latin: "ILLUMINARE" ----from this: "ILLUMINATOR" = painter of the INITIALEN.
Middle of the 17th Century, the word "to limn" was used, with the exclusive meaning, "to paint a miniature".
The word "limn" comes from the word "ILLUMINE" and this again from "MINIUM" = red colour from "lead "(Pb3 04).
At the time of the painter HANS HOLBEIN the miniatures were painted on "cardboard".
The "background" was always "blue"= a colour from "Lapis Lazuli" diluted with white colour.
The "figure" of the person, "the portrait", was painted very "delicate", the "skin" very "transparent" and the clothes with pearls and ornaments were painted very carefully.
1539, HANS HOLBEIN painted a miniature of Anne of Cleves, the 3rd wife of King Henry VII, on cardboard in the finest "water colours technique" This picture was put in an elegant ivory little box with a rose on the cover.
In the middle of the 16th Century, all the pictures painted in "little" were attributed Hans Holbein. He was very occupied in England (1532 - 1535) and he also painted miniatures of Henry VIII.
For 200 years the technique used for miniatures did not change. During this time and particularly in the 17th Century miniatures were painted with oil colours on copper, stone and wood, but the colours were not as delicate and transparent as on ivory.