Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Retro Blast: Updated: Lover’s Eyes

A version of this post was originally published in May 2011 as the second part of a series called Picture Makes Perfect. But, at the moment, eyes feature large in my life. Supposedly, my retina is detaching, but the surgeon can’t find the tear! So, my writing is severely restricted while we wait to see how things progress.

Eyes were also important in the nineteenth century if you couldn’t afford a formal portrait or wanted something to carry next to your heart to remind you of your one true love. Thus, the creation of Lover’s Eyes. This small portrait showed only a portion of a person’s face. I imagine it didn’t take too many settings with an artist, unlike a full-sized portrait. Much more economical!

But sometimes it wasn’t cost or size that made these attractive. Perhaps you couldn’t marry your love, or your dear husband had died young on the battlefield. With the Lover’s Eye hidden in a locket, no one would know about the painting but you. And even if someone accidentally saw the picture, they would be hard pressed to prove who it portrayed.

Legend has it when the Prince of Wales was in love with Maria Fitzherbert and forbidden from legally marrying her without forfeiting the crown, he commissioned a painting of his eye for her and her eye for him. This he could wear against his heart without anyone being the wiser. He must have shown it about sufficiently, however, for Lover’s Eyes became all the rage. Later people chose these tiny portraits to remember someone who had died. This one is supposedly of Princess Charlotte, who died in 1817, and includes hair bound into the locket.

Finally, here are a couple of eye miniatures of two writers you happen to know.  See if you can tell which is which. 

I guess you could say the eyes have it. :-)

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