'Lover's eyes' were popular mementos in late 18th century

June 15, 2005

Miniature portraits were oftentimes taken with a husband or a lover on a trip in order to remember his wifeor girlfriend.

Did Abe Lincoln have a fourth-nerve palsy? Was Modigliani's or El Greco's art caused by or affected by astigmatism? How is it that the Mona Lisa appears to focus on the observer no matter at what angle he or she looks at the painting? An interesting focus on the eye follows.

Miniature portrait painters held a very high position as artist specialists from the last third of the 18th century to the mid 19th century. These artists were not just portrait painters, but rather miniature specialists who painted portraits-in this case, miniatures of eyes. They were well respected and developed a large following. Miniature portraits were oftentimes taken with a husband or a lover on trip in order to remember his wife or girlfriend. Memory was more easily jogged if a portrait was handy. Indeed many of these trips took years before the person was to return to the loved one.

As the lover's eyes concept expanded, so did the mountings that held them. Although pins are the most common, rings and bracelets were also produced.