|A fake lovers' eye created from a cracked miniature on ivory that has been rescued as 'an Eye' and painted with sky/clouds Cosway-style. (thanks to Lucy Inglis!)|
We Georgians loved our eye miniatures (or lovers' eyes, as someone more recently termed them). A tiny painting depicting the eye of the gift-giver, these tokens were usually awarded to a lover or other object of affection when both parties wished to keep their liaison secret. More often than not the medium chosen was watercolour on ivory and they were given as rings, lockets (with a lock of hair, nice touch!) or whatever item of jewellery tickled your fancy. If you were willing to splash out, an artist of the calibre of Cosway could do you something particularly special and you would enjoy the added benefit of showing off the size of your purse into the bargain.
Intimate, romantic and expensive, an eye miniature was a declaration of adoration, as one of our Georgian monarchs surely understood.
Though George Engleheart was painting eye miniatures as early as 1775, it was George's gesture that made them fashionable (he never could keep a secret) and soon they were very much the done thing. You won't see them in portraits of the era though - they were far too scandalous for that!
|Richard Cosway in a 1770 self portrait|
|Maria Fitzherbert by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1788|
Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.