Secret Sitters oil miniatures are my homage to Georgian Lovers Eye miniatures.
These mysterious, enigmatic miniatures were popular in the late 1700s and early 1800 and often depicted the gaze of a lover, the identity of whom could the kept secret, small enough to secrete behind a lapel or elsewhere on the person. Originally known simply as ‘eye miniatures’, New York–based antique collector Edith Weber coined the phrase ‘Lovers Eye’, although many miniatures were probably simply a form of a sentimental or mourning keepsake, serving the same function as that of a locket containing a coil of a loved one’s hair, worn close to the heart.
It is thought that these miniatures were popularized by a scandalous affair between the Prince of Wales, later crowned King George IV of England, and a widowed commoner Maria Fitzherbert. Despite disapproval from the court, the two wed in secret, and in 1785 commissioned portraits of their eyes as discreet and intimate tokens of affection. Soon after learning of the affair, Lovers Eye jewellery became all the rage among the privileged classes.
They were typically painted in watercolour on ivory. Many of the portraits are no larger than an inch wide, fashioned into wearable pieces of jewellery such as brooches, rings, pendants, and lockets, as well as adorning snuffboxes, toothpick containers and other decorative receptacles. The are often set in a particular precious stone for symbolic meaning; pearls symbolized tears; coral was meant to ward off evil; diamonds represented longevity; garnets are said to represent true friendship.
As few as 1000 Lover’s Eyes exist today, making them highly collectible.
Not being a jeweller myself, I have decided to present my Secret Sitters oil miniatures portraits in oil on antique and vintage books instead. I have a variety of books in stock. If you wish to commission your own Secret Sitter miniature (eye, nose, mouth or ears!), please request to see my current stock and choose your preferred book, then simply email me a selection of good quality (in focus) close-up photos of your loved one’s eye.
Alternatively, you can send me the book onto which you wish me to paint. Email me an image of it first though, so I can see if it is suitable (e.g. it can’t have any embossing on the area you’d like me to paint). Or, I can simply provide your eye portrait on a plain 6cm wooden disc, ready for you to personalize with your frame of choice.
Oil on vintage book.
Oil on wooden disc.
Prices start at £85