26 March 2012


All the pictures are taken from the exhibition catalog,
The Look of Love.

I never knew there was a whole world of eye miniatures, but I have just encountered the catalog for The Look of Love, an exhibition currently at the Birmingham Museum of Art.  There was, apparently, for the short period of 1790 through 1820, an intense fashion for jewelry with a painting of the eye of your lover. Nan and David Skier of Birmingham have collected these miniatures for twenty years.  Ninety-eight of these miniatures are shown in the catalog.  I have selected eleven to show here, most of them set in pearls, to emphasize the enormous variation in presentation.

The word "miniature" should be emphasized. You are seeing pictures much larger than the originals. To judge from the catalog descriptions, very few of these eyes are half an inch long.  The detail is astounding.  More astounding is the unexpected intimacy and erotic power that can be conveyed by a single, painted, eye.

I was born in Birmingham, and the Museum of Art provided me a haven during some difficult times.  I hope they will take this as a note of gratitude.

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The exhibition continues through June 10. The catalog can be ordered here.

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