Damiët Schneeweisz

PhD Student

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 early modern Atlantic Ocean world. Focusing on key sites across the Americas and the Caribbean – including Suriname, Brazil, Martinique, and Saint Domingue – 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 human remains (such as locks of hair) set on the reverse of the portrait. Examining the miniature’s relationship to the fetish, 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. 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) 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)
  • BA (Hons, Summa Cum Laude) 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, ‘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

Research Interests

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