Friday, May 27, 2011

Picture Makes Perfect, Part 2

Oh, those lips, those eyes, that hair! Pick a feature! In the days before photography, how did one memorialize the beauty of your one true love? If you couldn’t afford a formal portrait or you wanted something to carry next to your heart, you had a couple of options.

One was the miniature. As the name implies, this was a small picture, anywhere from the size of a paperback book to the oval that fit into a jeweled setting. Artists specialized in capturing a loved one’s likeness in tiny lines in watercolor or gouache on ivory or enamel on copper. Children, sweethearts, and even your favorite pet were painted. You might also purchase a miniature to remember visiting some far off sight: sets showing features of Greece, Italy, and Venice were popular. The miniatures might be mounted in larger frames, tucked into lockets, or set in brooches, pendants, or rings.

But sometimes, it wasn’t appropriate for you to be carrying around someone else’s likeness, or carrying that likeness was bitter sweet. Perhaps you couldn’t marry your love, or your dear husband had died young on the battlefield. You could commission a painting of just your lover’s eye. Hidden in a locket, no one would know but you. And even if they saw the picture, they would be hard pressed to prove who it portrayed.

Legend has it when the Prince of Wales was in love with Maria Fitzherbert and forbidden from legally marrying her without forfeiting the crown, he commissioned a painting of his eye for her and her eye for him. This he could wear against his heart without anyone being the wiser. He must have shown it about sufficiently, however, for “lover’s eyes” as they are now called, became quite the rage. Later people chose them to remember someone who had died.

So, here are a couple of eye miniatures of two writers you happen to know. See if you can tell which is which.

1 comment:

Marissa Doyle said...

This is made of awesome. :)

I seem to remember reading that Prnny was buried with his miniature of Mrs. Fitzherbert over his heart--I'll dig around in my books and try to confirm.