The Secret History of "Lover's Eyes"
by Emma Mustich
In the 18th and 19th centuries, wealthy British and European lovers exchanged “eye miniatures” — love tokens so clandestine that even now, in the majority of cases, it is impossible to identify their recipients or the people they depict.
Experts believe that there are fewer than 1,000 “lover’s eyes” in existence today. Of that small surviving hoard, the largest single collection belongs to the Skiers of Birmingham, Ala. David Skier, an eye surgeon, and his wife, Nan, have been collecting “lover’s eyes” for decades — and their collection will go on display for the first time ever at the Birmingham Museum of Art next month.
Over the phone, curator Dr. Graham Boettcher outlined the history and uses of these petite, jewel-like paintings. The accompanying slide show highlights some particularly splendid examples from an altogether remarkable collection.
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