Georgian Lover's Eye Portrait Miniature of Redhead
This brooch dates correctly to around 1810-1820 and is a classic form. Set with natural seed pearls in a delicate border, there are twenty-six (26) pearls in all set in gold. The miniature is watercolor on ivory and is in rectangular format. The eye is most rare as it is of a redhead. Rarely do you find this coloration. The eye itself is vivid blue, with a hint of the supple skin underneath and the lid and brow of auburn hair. It is painted with artistry and skill and is incredibly lifelike. The ivory of course makes for a convincing background as it is so akin to flesh tones. The entire brooch’s charm stems from its understated delicacy and enigmatic subject. The condition is very fine with the intact rock crystal that is bezeled and appears untouched or disturbed. The brooch itself is also very fine with one pearl possibly reinforced slightly otherwise original C clasp, tube hinge and pin stem and all else original. A few bottom center pearls have the slightest greenish case which is magnified greatly in the photos. In person it is very hard to detect. English in origin. Measures 1 inch cross with pin extending (2.5 cm), and 7/8 of an inch without (2.2 cm); 5/8 of an inch high (1.6 cm).
Lover’s eye, or miniature portraits of just an eye, are some of the most captivating pieces of jewelry from the Georgian period that are extant. Eye’s as symbols have been used for centuries upon centuries and the eye itself as an image is enthralling, mesmerizing and thought provoking. Said too have begun with the Prince of Wales in the late 18th century, for his secret lover, Mrs. Fitzherbert. They exchanged eye miniature portraits rather than full miniatures so they both would have “anonymous” love tokens. The bearers were the only ones who could identify the sitter.
This charming custom took hold and the aristocracy and wealthy began to exchange these types of tokens of love and affection. They fashion only lasted from the late 1790’s though to about 1825 or a bit later. It is interesting to note that most forms are as this one, in very small brooches, quite plain, perhaps with seed or garnet borders. They are also often women’s eye so it leads one to believe that they may have been given as tokens of affection for sisters and friends, as these brooches were not worn by men. In fact, very few male eyes are found at all!
Many forgeries now abound. Many are now either painted “yesterday” and placed into a hair lockets of all shapes (with the hair removed) or cut from an original period portrait miniature and inserted into Victorian or Georgian jewelry. The fancier the setting, the more one must very closely scrutinize the jewel for the possibility of it being not of the period. Most on Ebay sadly are poor forgeries. If you wish to read further, please see the “Reference” section of our website, under “Glossary of Terms” and scroll down to “Lover’s Eyes”.
This eye is correct. Some of the clues are that first this is painted finely and in the exact manner of a Georgian miniaturist. The crystal is in near pristine condition with no evidence of tampering or opening. There is also only a single eye with no hair, nose or other face elements. This would lead us to believe it was not cut from a miniature. However, note that having those suggestions of hair, nose, or other facial features does not necessarily mean it is automatically a forgery - some were painted this way. All in all an endearing token of the sentiments of a time long gone.
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