I've Got My Eye on You!
I am reading many articles this summer for a class and this article really has stuck with me so I want to share a few things from it with you. The article discusses miniature eye portraits. This tradition all began in 1784 when the Prince of Wales fell madly in love with a widow (and Roman Catholic) Mrs. Fitzherbert. It was understood that the prince's father, King George III, would disapprove of such a union. In a desperate move, the prince faked a suicide attempt to force a promise of marriage from the woman. It worked at first and she promises to secretly marry him, but upon thinking more about it she fled from England. He desperately wrote her many letters pleading her to return. In a famous letter written on November 3, 1784 he proposed again and sent a little trinket. It was not a ring, and not the typical miniature portrait, but a miniature portrait of the prince's eye alone. Now during this time it was common to give a loved one a miniature portrait of oneself. These were made for relatives or lovers or even friends. The portrait of an eye, however, was much less common and seems to be a great deal more intimate. Much has been made of how such a portrait seems to look back at the viewer even more than the viewer looks at it. Now to our modern selves this might seem to be quite the creepy move. We might perhaps be repulsed by such an odd gift, but this was not the reaction of Mrs. Fitzherbert. She returns to England, marries the prince secretly, and gives him a portrait of her own eye. Most interestingly, this begins a trend in the country of eye portraits being given to special loved ones! This trend does not last long and dies out around the 1840's, but the fact that such a tradition caught on (probably because of such a love story between a member of the royal family) is quite fascinating. I have actually seen an eye portrait in an antiques store recently (before reading this article) and was quite taken aback by it. It was a crude one, and not really a miniature, but it was a small painted close up of just one eye. It made me immediately uncomfortable to be honest. We must remember, however, we are talking about people from a period in time who wore jewelry out of their loved ones' hair! Literally they braided thick locks of hair into bracelets and necklaces blending the function of the pieces as jewelry, but also as relic. Eeeeeeeeewwwww! (or really sweet.... I just can't decide!)
6/10/2010 10:58:09 am
I love "eye miniarures" and also enjoyed learning more about there meaning. I look forward to hearing more about your business too - maybe we could bring you back as a Winthrop alumni speaker soon!
6/10/2010 11:01:11 am
except I meant to write "their" meaning not" there" meaning....fine professor I am!
6/13/2010 12:13:23 pm
Thanks for the comments Dr Dufresne!! Yea I would love to come to Alumni thingy sometime. Hopefully I will know even more about appraisal then. Yes, I love these little eyes too. I now want to either paint my own, or find them in antiques shops, or go looking for them in museums. I think there is a big collection up in Philadelphia. :)
7/2/2010 09:23:40 am
very interesting... some were kind of pretty, but also definitely gives you a strange feeling (as though someone is watching every move you make). looks like it would be the perfect gift from a stalker.
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Amy has a passion for art that has led her here.