The first portrait miniatures appeared in the 1520s in the French and English courts, and they were especially useful for the monarchy. Small enough so that they can be given as a gift, they were a symbol of the monarch's grace when wearing public.
Take, for example, the portrait of "George Cumberland, the third Earl of Clifford" by artist Nicholas Hilliard. Queen Elizabeth's favor is depicted in tournament armor with the cipher Elizabeth, two "E" back to back (visible on the front of his armor), signaling not only his role at court, but also his devotion to the Queen.
Thumbnails that can be seen in thisexposure from the best artists of the period, show an early approach to the figure, which will be the predecessor of self about 500 years later.