This stunning exhibition explores the little-known subject of “lover’s eyes,” hand-painted miniatures of single human eyes set in jewelry and given as tokens of affection or remembrance. In 1785, when the Prince of Wales secretly proposed to Mrs. Maria Fitzherbert with a miniature of his own eye, he inspired an aristocratic fad for exchanging eye portraits mounted in a wide variety of settings including brooches, rings, lockets, and toothpick cases.
With over 100 examples, the collection of Dr. and Mrs. David A. Skier of Birmingham is the largest in the world. This exhibition offers an unprecedented look at these unusual and intriguing works of art.
The exhibition is accompanied by a full color, hardbound catalogue of the same name, edited by Dr. Graham C. Boettcher, The William Cary Hulsey Curator of American Art, and published by D Giles Ltd., London. An essay by Elle Shushan sets the historical scene and examines the role of lover’s eyes in the broader context of Georgian and early Victorian portrait miniatures. Boettcher looks at the language and symbolism of these tokens and their jeweled settings. Additionally, novelist and biographer Jo Manning offers five fictional vignettes imagining the circumstances surrounding the creation of these extraordinary objects.
Visitors can also interact with the exhibition through an iPad app, built by the Birmingham Museum of Art. The Look of Love app allows visitors to see these tiny, intricate objects at up to twenty times their actual size. They can also see images of the backs of objects or short videos of how the objects open.
Birmingham Museum of Art
February 7, 2012 – June 10, 2012
Georgia Museum of Art
October 6, 2012 – January 6, 2013
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
September 21, 2013 – January 5, 2014
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
May 15, 2014 – August 24, 2014