Damiët Schneeweisz

PhD Candidate

Thesis: A History of the Portrait Miniature in the Atlantic Ocean World (c 1770-1830)

Supervised by Dr Esther Chadwick and advised by Professor Joanna Woodall

Funded by a CHASE AHRC Doctoral Studentship

My research considers the use, value, and movement of portrait miniatures in the Caribbean during the long eighteenth century. Focusing on key sites of Caribbean and Circum-Atlantic interaction – including Suriname and Guyana; the French Antilles and Saint Domingue; the British West Indies; Louisiana; and the courts of Haiti and Brazil – I examine how portrait miniatures engaged in and were shaped by social relations in the spaces through which they circulated. Painted on sheets of ivory and surrounded with valuable materials like gold, pearls, and diamonds, miniatures and their jewel-encrusted containers were dependent on the transatlantic slave trade and its economic exploits. Over the course of the eighteenth century, the portable portrait-objects became a popular conduit of racialised identities.

Unlike larger portraits, the miniature was treasured as an intimate memento of an absent loved one or as a strategic diplomatic gift that was worn on the body, carried, and passed from one hand to another, often with locks of hair, relic-like, set on the reverse of the portrait. Many scholars have drawn on ideas about the ‘fetish’ to understand how the European portrait miniature was used and valued. My research expands on familiar comparisons to other animated objects that were imbued with a sense of agency in a European context, such as religious reliquaries, amulets, and relics, with a cross-cultural comparison to Afro-Atlantic amuletic objects that were popular in the early modern Caribbean. It presents a creole history of the miniature embedded in a wider world of Caribbean visual and material cultures. In doing so, the thesis suggests an alternative material and theoretical framework to study the portrait miniature and its movement in the Circum-Atlantic world.


  • MA (High Distinction, The Courtauld Prize for an Outstanding Dissertation) History of Art: Circum-Atlantic Visual Culture, c 1770-1830 | The Courtauld Institute of Art, London (2019-2020)
  • MA (Highest Distinction) Museum Studies and Curatorial Practice | Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (2018-2019); MA dissertation
  • BA (Hons, Summa Cum Laude, Valedictorian, Highest Academic Achievement Award) Liberal Arts & Sciences: Global Challenges. Major: Human Diversity (renamed to Culture, History, Society); Minor: Museums, Cultural Heritage, and Collections | Leiden University College The Hague, Leiden University (2015-2018)

Fellowships and Professional Activities

Grants and Awards

  • Scholarship, Dr Hendrik Muller’s Vaderlandsch Fonds (2019/2022)
  • The Courtauld Prize for an Outstanding Dissertation, The Courtauld Institute of Art (2020)
  • Young Talent Award Scholarship, Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds (2019)
  • Highest Academic Achievement Award, Leiden University College The Hague, Leiden University (2018)
  • Valedictorian, Leiden University College The Hague, Leiden University (2018)



  • Damiët Schneeweisz, ‘Made in Paramaribo: Towards a History of the Portrait Miniature in the Circum-Caribbean,’ chapter in Portrait Miniatures: Artists, Functions and Collections (forthcoming, spring 2023)
  • Damiët Schneeweisz, ‘Caribbean Treasures: A Portrait Miniature from Suriname,’ Rijksmuseum Stories: Connecting Objects, March 22, 2021.
  • ‘Interview with Angelita Teo,’ interview by Alessia Levonique Candra, Ratnawati Erlimus, Zhou Fan, Damiët Schneeweisz, Leon Tan, and Lydia Wong, Questioning Museums: Art Institutions in Singapore | Conversations with Kennie Ting, Peter Lee, Angelita Teo, Kwa Chong Guan, ed. by Jennifer Burris and Adrian Tan (Singapore: NTU Singapore, 2019), 71-99.

Conference Papers, Lectures & Talks

  • ‘Portrait Miniatures in the Atlantic Ocean World’, Portrait Miniatures: Artists, Functions and Collections: 3rd International Conference, The Tansey Miniatures Foundation, 2022
  • ‘”From Geneva Switzerland in Frankfort Kentucky State”: Reflections on a Profile Portrait by David Boudon in the Early Inland South’, Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts Summer Institute, 2022
  • ‘Translation, Revolution, and Reproduction: Printed Images by and after Agostino Brunias in the French Atlantic World (c 1779-1833)’, Annual Conference Association For Art History (University of Birmingham/Online), 2021
  • ‘Exhibiting Colonial History’, talkshow and podcast guest, AM LIVE (Amsterdam Museum), 2021
  • ‘Een miniatuurportret uit Suriname’, Rijksmuseum Lunch Lectures, 2021

Research Interests

  • Visual and material culture
  • Circum-Atlantic world
  • Caribbean art histories
  • Southern material culture
  • Agency, fetish, and the anthropology of art
  • Objects in motion
  • Global art history and cultural exchange
  • Museum studies
  • Conservation and technical art history