“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
Lovers’ Eyes Miniatures were fashionable in the Georgian era, beginning from the 1790s until the 1820s. They were commissioned pieces and were normally watercolour on ivory and depicted the eye or eyes of a loved one. They could be found on bracelets, brooches, pendants, rings and other trinkets such as the lids of toothpick containers and small boxes. They sometimes contained locks of hair, incorporated into the portrait itself or placed behind glass or crystal.
The first Lover’s Eye piece is thought to have been sent by the Prince of Wales (later George IV) to the widow Maria Fitzherbert. A miniaturist was commissioned to paint only his eye in order to preserve the secrecy of their relationship. George IV wore Maria Fitzherbert’s eye miniature hidden under his lapel.
This highly romantic, sentimental and original idea appealed greatly to people of the Georgian era. Today, Lover’s Eyes Miniatures are considered highly collectible and fetch very high prices. (NOTE: There is a thriving market in fakes, so please exercise caution if you have the opportunity to purchase one of these lovely items).
Miniature on ivory, c. 1830’s. Hand-painted miniature of a left hazel eye on ivory in heart-shaped pendant.
Further reading: Hair Work Jewelry
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