Sunday, October 6, 2013

Fiddling Around with Mrs. Fitzherbert's Eye

The eye of Mrs Maria Anne Fitzherbert, c.1786

I've recently been drawn to the fascinating realm of miniature paintings on ivory featuring a lone, mysterious eye, known as a "lover's eye" or "mourner's eye." The origin of "a lover's eye" dates back to the illicit marriage of a twice-divorced Catholic, Mrs. Fitzherbert, to the future George IV. The marriage had to remain secret or he'd be forced to forfeit the throne. Mrs. Fitzherbert commissioned artist Richard A. Cosway to paint just one of her eyes. The portrait was done on ivory, placed behind glass and set within a locket. George could wear the locket without anyone being able to positively identify the owner of the eye, and was found with it clutched in his hand on his deathbed. The idea of the lover's eye became a fashionable rage. Today these tiny portraits of eyes are rare and expensive collectibles.

Examples of lover's eyes (for sources see end of this post):

My first pass at creating a modern take on a lover's eye involves a pin sporting the eye of four-year-old AJ, a girl who sports gauze fairy wings at all times, practices flying off couches and beds on a regular basis, and wants to be an astronaut. She may be following in the jet stream of her great-grandfather, who won the Distinguished Flying Cross in World War II. Here is a lover's eye depicting this fearless four-year-old flyer.

Materials: old watch casing, broken jewelry, miniature medal, photograph

Over time, the lover's eye became used for another purpose, that of remembering the dead. What had been known as the lover's eye became the "mourner's eye." This version frequently includes a tear falling from the eye, and may also include clouds (to reinforce the idea that the dear departed is looking down from heaven).

Two examples of mourner's eyes appear below (again, sources appear at the end of this post). Note the clouds surrounding the head of a departed baby, and the tear falling from the woman's eye.

For my take on a mourner's eye I focused on my grandmother, one of many females in my line who was accomplished at delivering looks that could kill, as she appears to be doing in the source photo. Her favorite motto was, "Things are never so bad that they can't get worse." Below are two different renditions of A Mourner's Eye for Margot, both drawing on an old photograph of my grandmother at age 20.
The source photo

In this first example, the eye is displayed inside of a vintage Lady Hamilton watch my grandmother casually gave me years ago when she realized my assemblage work at that point frequently used old watches.

A Mourner's Eye for Margot #1


A Mourner's Eye for Margot #2 is a diminutive wall hanging. Auto glass stands in for diamonds around the edge of the pin, and for tears inside the dangling little collection bottle. The innards of the watch become part of the assemblage in the upper right corner.

Materials: tin can lid, broken auto glass, lab specimen bottle, recycled paper bead, pop-top tab

broken auto glass "tears"

 To learn more about Mrs. Fitzherbert and the beginning of this tradition visit the website below.

To get more information about lover's eyes and mourner's eyes and see dozens of fascinating examples, visit either of the websites below.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails