Thursday, March 11, 2010

"Eye" Love You!

Photo from the V&A ~Notice the diamnd teardrop~

I've fallen hard for these incredible pieces of jewelry. I love the intrigue and meaning behind them as well as thier beauty. Here's some backstory about these gorgeous Lover's eye miniatures.


Photo ~The Philadelphia Museum of Art~

In the late 1700s, while his father George III was losing the Revolutionary War in America, George IV of England was losing his heart to a young girl, who happened to be a commoner. The young prince's lover gave him a locket with a miniature painting of her eye; her anonymity was preserved while eye contact was maintained. The idea caught on and, for about 30 years, these Georgian miniatures became fiercely popular among the upper classes throughout Europe and have become a very rare and sought out genre of antique jewelry today.




Photo ~The Philadelphia Museum of Art~

Painted by miniaturists, portrait painters who specialized in small, detailed images. They focused on only the eye, often represented with eyebrow and lashes. Sometimes showcasing a wisp of hair or the suggestion of a sideburn or the bridge of a nose would hint at the owner's identity but never reveal it, how romantic! Adding to the mystery of it all the miniaturist often added a delicate border of clouds around the eye.
These amazing little love tokens appeared between the 1790s and 1820s in the courts and upper crust households of England, Russia, France.


Photo ~The Philadelphia Museum of Art~

 
Eventually, the idea caught on for use as mourning jewelry. Mourning pieces contained the eye of a departed loved one, sometimes set in a frame of pearls which symbolized tears.

Photo ~The Philadelphia Museum of Art~

Most eyes are unidentifiable, however, there is one diamond-studded example marked with an Imperial Crown and initials "J.B." This piece can be traced back to Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon's ne'er-do-well brother who was once the Emperor of Spain! So incredible!!

Photo~Te Lenore Dailey Collection~

“When full dressed she wore around her neck the barrenest of lockets, representing a fishy old eye, with no approach to speculation in it” – Charles Dickens, 1848
 
Photo ~Flickr~
 
Such gorgeous pieces! How I would love to add one to my collection of portrait jewelry, a girl can dream can't she!?!
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22 comments:

  1. Judith dearest,
    You are often gone for long periods of time, but when you come back, you come back in style and great ease. These are stunning images, a mysterious and intriguing form of art, and a joy to behold on your lovely blog. It is always a treat to see your posts! Please come by some time...Anita

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  2. I loved this post!!
    Amazing history. Thanks so much

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  3. I very often go to the Victoria and Albert Museum but this is something that had, so far, escaped me! Very interesting, at least from a cultural, societal or sociological point of view. It begs the question: wouldn't you recognise someone from their eye - and their eye only?

    Thanks a lot for sharing!

    http://davidikus.blogspot.com/

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  4. Hi Judith~

    I love how unique these are and appreciate the stories that go behind them. Incredible!

    xo Noel

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  5. Beautiful...tempting...!!! Good luck finding your treasure! Trish

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  6. Judith, these are stunning, and the origin is so romantic!! Thank you for sharing both the lovely treasures and the story behind them!
    I want one!
    xo Isa

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  7. these have always fascinated me too-would love to have several, there is an artist on etsy(see you are represented there) that does something in this vein, some are copies of her own painting and some are handpainted.very lovely. pgt

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  8. These are so romantic - I've never heard of them before. What alovely post!
    Kathy xxx

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  9. Hi Judith!
    OMG!! I LOVE these too! I found a ring at Christmas time at Tale of the Yak in Berkley and was going to buy it for myself... I thought it was 750. but NOT it was 7500. so I passed. LOVED IT THOUGH!! Great find and great eYe you have my friend!
    OX

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  10. I love this story. These treasures ares beautiful

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  11. These broaches look freaky at first until I read the history...how romantic!!!

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  12. Eye love these....Happy weekend Judith, xv.

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  13. I'm a sucker for these pieces, I did a post a few months ago on the exact same thing. It was so fun to see all the mourning/lovers jewelry they did back then. I love jewelry with symbolism and a history. I just wish I could afford one of my own!!! :) ~K

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  14. I've never seen these before, what woman wouldnt want something so delicate and beautiful?!

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  15. WHat an amazing thing, I never knew about these. It's a great idea, and fascinating to think of how long ago it was.

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  16. This is such an amazing post! I love hearing the history behind these truly charming treasures. What an ingenious idea and such lovely execution as a jewelry piece.

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  17. What a great collection, I collect mourning jewelry, have read about and and heard the stories about these lovely little mysteries but have never owned one. They are absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

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  18. I love the story and pictures of the eye portraits. I am selling eye portrait necklaces at my etsy shop, peaceablehillfarm.etsy.com.

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  19. "Eye'm" with everyone else, these are incredible. A bit eery but I find them lovely. Thank you for posting them Judith. All my best ~

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  20. How fascinating. I can't believe I've not run across any of these in all the museums over the years. Thank you for sharing this. I'll have to keep my (ahem) eye open for them more closely...

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  21. Hey! I noticed this blog! I am an art teacher! I registered my art class to go to a workshop at an art museum in philly to make eye art 2 months ago. However i LOST the paper with the info and the name of the art museum. Do you know where the art musuem is that is currently having an eye art workshop? Please let me know asap i really appreciate this.

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