“Wondering, wondering if you’re wondering too…” This is the refrain in the background as a group of musicians jam on Thursday morning, at Eden’s Country Junction. This is right in tune with today’s peculiar and fascinating topic.
What do you miss most when you and your sweetheart are apart? Two things come to mind: holding her hand. It fits so perfectly that your connection seems to defy time. And gazing in his eyes. You can never forget those eyes, even with yours closed.
Legend has it, and it may very well not be legend at all, that the Prince of Wales, later to become King George IV, had his heart set on a certain widow Maria Fitzherbert. As you might imagine, this affection was not highly regarded by his family, so it was kept as discreet as possible. Thus the Prince is said to have commissioned thereafter renowned miniaturist, Richard Cosway, to produce a painting of his own eye to be encased in a small locket he offered to his lady as a token of his love. Only she would know whose eye it was.
Over time, Cosway and contemporary artist George Engleheart produced an astounding series of “Lover’s Eye” miniatures for lockets, pendants, brooches, bracelets and even rings. These did not merely depict the eye of a secret or hopeful lover. They also represented the eye of a child, spouse, parent or sibling. Lovers and children, both alive and departed, were the main source of inspiration. The term “mourning eye” is used when the artwork depicts the eye of a deceased loved one.
Occasionally, hints of other characteristic traits were included: a lock of hair or the eyebrow, for example. Lover’s Eyes were usually painted in watercolor, directly on ivory. Brooches and pendants were especially stunning, with abundantly decorated frames. Many were studded with gems.
As with a full-figure painting, the artist worked directly from observation of the subject. The result was a likeness of such precision that today we are stunned by the notion that it was accomplished without a camera.
The watercolor texture gave the artwork a dreamy, poetic air. By revealing the eye only, the identity of the person was thought to be concealed. This, too, contributes much to the poetic value of the art.
Aside from being made into wearable art, Lover’s Eyes were also painted on the inside of shells and inside miniature memory boxes.