Sidelong Glances

My love of all things small is well documented, and extends to miniature portraits painted on ivory. After my first trip to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, all else was eclipsed by the miniature portraits, running all the way from Elizabethan courtiers through Georgian nobles. Quite a sight. But nothing caught the imagination more than eye portraits:

They have an interesting story ...

Apparently they developed "... when the Prince of Wales (to become George IV) wanted to exchange a token of love with the Catholic widow (of Edward Weld who died 3 months into the marriage) Maria Fitzherbert. The court denounced the romance as unacceptable, though a court miniaturist developed the idea of painting the eye and the surrounding facial region as a way of keeping anonymity. "

"The pair were married on December 15, 1785, but this was considered invalid by the Royal Marriages Act because it had not been approved by George III, but Fitzherbert’s Catholic persuasion would have tainted any chance of approval. Maria’s eye portrait was worn by George under his lapel in a locket as a memento of her love. This was the catalyst that began the popularity of lover’s eyes."

"From its inception, the very nature of wearing the eye is a personal one and a statement of love by the wearer. Not having marks of identification, the wearer and the piece are intrinsically linked, rather than a jewellery item which can exist without the necessity of the wearer."

And "focusing on only the eye, often represented with eyebrow and lashes. A wisp of hair, the suggestion of sideburn or the bridge of a nose would hint at the owner’s identity but never reveal it."

"A border of clouds frequently encircled the image, further accentuating the mystery surrounding it. Such portraits appeared between the 1790s and 1820s in the courts and affluent households of England, Russia, France and even, quite rarely, America. In all, Weber estimates that fewer than a thousand were produced."

What an expression of love. And you can order your own beautifully made example, here. (Though I would suggest having it fit into an old locket or broach.)


Mlle Paradis said...

No it's the pearls and the other little stones I want. I DIE for the first one but did you notice the second one has the colors of the F.P. painting? Is this the theme for the week? Thanks for stopping by Nick - yes, Matisse's black line - who could beat it? Who practiced drawing as much as he did? Perhaps only Picasso. Apparently not F.P.

Nick Heywood said...

Yes, I agree, the Georgian settings with small stones and pearls are preferable. I really only mention the settings in relation to the ones you can have made now because the options on her site are a little uninspiring.

And yes! The colors. Not at all intentional, but for whatever reason I find I gravitate to certain colors at certain times. It even extends to the things I buy and foods I eat.

Mlle Paradis said...

so where did you get these pics anyway? i feel like i need to detach them from the computer and stick them on my wall. i so adore those settings and the pearls are like little universes.

but popped by really to say, i did a corner view and those colors turned up again! check it out? how does that happen?

i would like to see how you organize those colors in terms of food. i hope you like beetroot and chemical green salsa!

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