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Lover's Eyes


Seems fitting to share these vintage brooches on Valentine's Day. The slightly creepy paintings of eyes are actually very romantic; each is a tiny hand-painted portrait on ivory of a person's lover's eyes. They were popular in England between the 1780s and 1830s when romantic marriages weren't frequent and affairs were common, these eye portraits were a way of showing love and loyalty to a partner while the subject remained anonymous. According to the Smithsonian, “One of the earliest known eye miniatures was painted in 1786 by the English artist Richard Cosway for the Prince of Wales, later King George IV. The miniature showed the eye of Mrs. Fitzherbert, the prince’s mistress.” And since just the eye of one’s lover was visible, the piece could be worn while your inamorata’s identify remained secret. It’s also been theorized that the “single eye also symbolized the watchful gaze of a jealous partner, who feared that his or her lover might stray.” There's actually a huge collection of these at the Philadelphia art museum--maybe I'll make the short drive out there one of these days… via