Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Eyes Have It

Thursday, June 25, 2009
Eye  miniature 1Susan reports:

One of my fav galleries at the Philadelphia Museum of Art isn't really a gallery, but a little room.  As it should be, because it's filled with little, tiny paintings. Long before IPhones became the way to keep in touch, miniature paintings were the memento of choice for the titled and affluent. Exquisitely painted and framed, miniatures traveled well, whether worn as a locket or on a watch fob or tucked inside a trunk.

But in the late 18th century, the Prince Regent (soon to be George IV, and the Regent who made his Regency THE Regency) launched a fad for a special kind of miniature. Mrs. Fitzherbert, his lover and secret wife, commissioned Richard Cosway to paint a miniature of her right eye, a conceit that was as discrete as it was charming. At once the Prince returned the favor, and had his eye painted and set into a ring for her to wear. Eye miniatures became an instant sensation in England, France, and even America, and were popular well into the Eye miniatures (group) nineteenth century. The largest example that I've photographed here (a bit blurry through the glass, I'm afraid) is only about two inches across, and they decorate brooches, rings, and snuffboxes. I like how modern collectors have dubbed them "lover's eyes"; seems fitting, doesn't it?

And so far. nobody's winked.


Unknown said...

Hi, Susan.

Fans/devotees of period jewelry might want to check out The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, MD. Last year, they had a fabulous exhibit of jewelery throughout history. I could easily imagine myself wearing a couple of gold cuff bracelets or an Elizabethan stomacher.

Hi to Loretta, too, and congrats on the new blog.

Best -

Binnie Syril

Two Nerdy History Girls. Design by Pocket