the Skier Collection" exhibit explores
the little-known subject of “lover’s eyes,”
hand-painted watercolor miniatures of single
human eyes set in jewelry and given as tokens
of affection or remembrance.
The original idea was that, by only showing
an eye, these miniatures painted on ivory
would conceal the identity of
the person who was shown.
It could then be worn in public with no one
knowing anything about the relationship.
These small-scale portraits of individual eyes are
from the late 18th and early 19th century England.
There are about 100 items featured in this exhibit
and only about 1000 are thought to be in
existence in the world.
Each miniature measures about
an inch to an inch and a half.
According to the museum, the tradition stems
from a secret love affair
between the Prince of Wales
(later King George IV of England) and
a widowed Catholic.
Starting in 1785, the couple exchanged several
miniatures depicting their eyes,
and eventually were secretly married.
The practice soon became a fad
that lasted many years. Most
of the miniatures remain unidentified.
“Look of Love: Eye Miniatures from the Skier Collection”
will be on view at the
Birmingham, Alabama, through June 10, 2012.