"The Season's Best Museum Shows"
by Stephen Wallis
“Look of Love: Eye Miniatures from the Skier Collection”
Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama
One of the oddest and most extraordinary forms of jewelry to emerge in the late 18th century was the eye miniature. A relatively little-studied subject, these hand-painted keepsakes—brooches, rings, lockets—featuring a depiction of a single human eye (usually a lover’s) were given as tokens of affection or remembrance. A fad for exchanging eye portraits was said to have started in 1785, when the Prince of Wales gave one to Maria Fitzherbert as a secret marriage proposal. As it happens, the world’s largest collection belongs to Dr. and Mrs. David A. Skier of Birmingham, who are lending 98 of the 101 pieces they own for this unprecedented exhibition.