Posted 6 years ago
I am an avid collector of eye portrait miniatures (known as lover's eyes, though this phrase is limited in its usage).
The earliest recorded eye portraits painted in England were executed by Ozias Humphry for his patron the Duke of Dorset in 1773, though it is believed the fashion started earlier in France and then migrated to England. From that period until the mid-1800s, eye miniatures were popular and many were painted, some by great artists, others by technically competent, unknown workmen artists. They were set in rings, pendants, brooches, stickpins, canes, toothpick cases and snuff boxes. I have a pair of cufflinks, each with a different eye. These portraits commemorated love, friendship, family and death.
During the late 1700s, the eye miniatures were smaller and often encased in a modified heart-shaped frame. Often the back enclosed a lock of hair. The frames might be plain, gem-set, or enameled with a lovely saying. For example, the eye to the right of the largest center heart is marked: Il Don de L'amitie "the gift of love" (or friendship). All of these eyes are hand-painted watercolor on ivory plaques.
Over a period of years, I collected these smaller eyes when I could find them and finally had enough to mount them on a contemporary chain as a necklace (I considered period chains, but wanted one where the eyes wouldn't flip to the backside...). The result is as above! Sorry, the photo isn't all that terrific!