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Richard Allen, head of Halls Fine Art in Shrewsbury and Chester, and an expert in portrait miniatures, is a trustee of the museum and has just finished helping to categorise and catalogue the 2500 portrait miniatures in the collection, which has been bequeathed to the institution over the past 10 years.

“My brief was to divide the vast collection up into three parts, including a travelling exhibition of up to 200 pre-eminent works for Europe and an American exhibition with lavishly illustrated catalogues,” he explained.

“I also had to select a permanent reserve collection of the more academic pieces which may not necessarily be as visually attractive but by their nature would be of great interest to study groups.”

“My final task was to identify those items to be recommended for sale. It is anticipated that a scholarly catalogue will be written for the entire collection.”

It was during the general research programme that hitherto unrecorded pieces were attributed to Hilliard, the Elizabethan painter and perhaps the most celebrated of portrait miniature artists, as well as to Richard Cosway from the late 18th century, and Samuel Cooper from the mid-17th century.