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A Dashing Duchess Discusses Eye Miniatures

So, check this out! When I was researching my last post about the Prince of Wales marrying the twice-widowed (and very Catholic) Maria Fitzherbert, I came across a little something about a token called an eye miniature. I found it quite fascinating and vowed to go back and look into it a bit more. Here’s what I discovered…

The eye miniature was a life-size portrait of a person’s eye (yes, that’s right, just the eye) painted inside a locket or other piece of jewelry. They were given as a sign of affection or remembrance. The Prince of Wales, George IV, was said to have given Mrs. F his eye miniature and she returned the favor. It was considered a clandestine token between lovers. Since only an eye was visible, in theory, no one else would know whose eye it was, but the owner of the eye would and could surreptitiously glance at the thing throughout the day. I suspect there was a great deal of sighing that went with it.

Once the Prince started the trend, all the rich folk jumped on board and wanted an eye miniature of their beloved.

In an age where people were falling in love with other people who they couldn’t really be with due to money, religion, family obligations, etc. the eye miniature (or lover’s eye) was one form of rebellion. Not that Mrs. F’s Catholicism or widowed state stopped the Prince from marrying her, but that’s another post.

I dug up one other interesting bit of info on the eye miniature as well. Apparently, an optometrist in the UK has a collection of over 100 of these things and they were on display in the summer of 2012.

I try to imagine my husband and I gazing fondly at each other’s painted eyes during the day but I can’t exactly render the image. I think I prefer my background image of the two of us together that pops up every time I turn on my iPhone. What? Not romantic?

So, what do you think? Eye miniatures:  creepy or romantic?

25 Responses to “A Dashing Duchess Discusses Eye Miniatures”

  • ki pha:

    LOL Interesting find Valerie. But they are just…. a bit too much. I would like the eyes to have a face to go with it at least. Maybe they were used so that whomever saw the “eye” they wouldn’t know who it is or belonged too, so that scandals wouldn’t be massive??

  • Jennifer McQuiston:

    Well, I think in that time period, when there was no possibility of sexting, we ought to be glad they picked the eye as their miniature and not something else. Just saying.

  • Karen H in NC:

    May be a little creepy in the 21st century but I believe that, at the time, it was the big thing….since there were no cameras.

  • Connie Fischer:

    The idea of wearing a brooch that is a painted eye is definitely creepy. The extent I would go to is a lock of a dead loved one’s hair in a locket and even then, that’s rather creepy.

  • Duchess Ashlyn:

    I’m going to vote with strange and a little creepy here. You know how some portraits seem to have eyes that follow the viewer? These eyes literally follow the viewer!

  • Duchess Wendy LaCapra:

    I can just imagine a lady showing a miniature to her friends and the resulting group sigh. I wonder if there were artists that specialized in just these miniatures. How did they advertize? “discreet with an ‘eye’ for detail”? :)

  • erinf1:

    that is such an interesting tidbit! But… I don’t know if I’d be so thrilled to get that as a token of affection… lol..

  • Duchess Kate Parker:

    I’ll vote for creepy. At least the owner of the eye was still alive. In Victorian times, it was all about death. Dead people’s hair made into jewelry, masks of their faces, everyone dressed in black like a goth ball.

  • Creepy, I think, by modern standards. But I can see the allure of the secret token between lovers. Still…nope. Much as I love Mr. Alexander, I don’t want a picture of his eye to carry around!

  • Her Grace Joanna:

    Creepy, with almost stalkerish tendencies, I think. “I’m watching you…ALWAYS!”

    Great post!

  • Duchess Heather Snow:

    I think it’s quite fascinating, given the strictures of the time. Sort of private and romantic. Perhaps I’m strange… :)

    Fun topic!

  • Kinda creepy but fascinating too. Thanks for sharing!

  • Glenda M:

    I’m voting on the creepy side of the debate. I do see where it might be considered romantic considering the time, but not so much today…. :-)

  • Marcy Shuler:

    I read a romance this year that had an eye miniature in it, but darned if I can remember the title. LOL

  • Madeline Martin:

    If someone was slightly wall-eyed, I wonder which one they’d take for the art piece… Just curious. Not romantic, more just…weird. LOL Thanks for the article – that was fun! :)