Only one miniaturist is known to have created dressed miniatures: Mary Way (1769-1833) of New London, Connecticut. Prior to the advent of photography in 1839, miniature portraits provided a convenient solution for the portable commemoration of loved ones and were typically done on ivory or paper in watercolor or oils. In the tiny profile portraits of "dressed miniatures," the face and hair of the sitter were executed in watercolor on paper and backed with silk or other cloth. The clothing of the sitters was fashioned with tiny pieces of silk, linen or cotton, which were often embellished with a painted highlight or detail.
Mary Way was the daughter of Mary Taber and Ebenezer Way, both of New London, Connecticut. Recent scholarship identifies 36 additional surviving dressed miniatures to her, most of which are of New London county residents and all executed over a twelve or fifteen-year period starting around 1790. A schoolteacher in the New London from 1809-1811, Mary moved to New York City in 1811, where she took on commissions for "likenesses on ivory or glass in colors or gold, landscapes or views of country seats, etc. etc." Her dressed miniatures appear to pre-date the more conventional miniatures she did after she left Connecticut.
By family tradition, this pair of dressed miniatures descended in the Edgar and Lewis families of New London, Connecticut, who have lived there since the 18th and 17th centuries, respectively. While the identity of these sitters is unknown, they may represent a father and son.