Thursday, May 28, 2009

Miniature Eye Portraits, Part 1

"Mother Meera's Eyes" 1 3/8" x 1 3/4", egg tempera on vellum, eye portrait of Indian saint, Mother Meera


"Amma's Eyes", 1 3/8" x 1 3/4", egg tempera on vellum, (eye portrait of Indian saint, Amritanandamayi Ma) available from my website


An example of an eye portrait pin (unknown artist, circa 1805-10) from the Lelia A. and John Hill Morgan Collection shown in Love And Loss, American Portrait and Mourning Miniatures, by Robin Jaffee Frank (p. 264)

My miniature magnifier arrived yesterday, and before moving on just want to mention that fellow miniaturist, Carol Andre, pointed out a very practical and less expensive way of magnification: if you wear reading or bifocal glasses, place a second pair of reading glasses over the first pair to achieve the magnified view (cost is about $1 as opposed to the $17 it cost for my magnifier). Speaking of eyes, it's my next topic!

I want to try another eye portrait. The top two images above are examples of two eye portraits I've done in the past, but lest you think it's my own idea, miniature eye portraits or lover's eyes are a lost art with an interesting history. The third example above comes from Love and Loss, a book I recommend on miniature painting. In the past, tiny jeweled brooches, rings and pins were the frames for a portrait of the single eye of a secret love, the idea being that if you can only see the eye, it is more anonymous--- a form of portrait that no one can easily identify except your beloved. It is said that a former Prince of Wales kept an eye portrait of his mistress which is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum collection, and a secret lover was often the subject of an eye portrait, one reason that they are a rare find now, but some were not only for secret loves. (See this short online article on Lovers Eyes.)

There are some wonderful examples of miniature portraits online, but since jewelers and museums have pretty strict copyright protection on the images, just Google "miniature eye portraits" to see some further examples.

For Part 2 on the topic of eye portraits, I'll show you an eye portrait I am working on.........

A special postscript for anyone visiting this post late who is interested in miniature eye portraits: please visit my blog for more detailed information on this at http://eyeportraitsinminiature.blogspot.com

9 comments:

Kathleen Coy said...

How neat, eyes are my favorite thing to paint! :-)

Debbie said...

Mona, I had never heard of miniature eye portraits, they have such an interesting history! Thanks for taking the time to write about them.

DEB said...

My magnifier arrived too...I haven't used it yet though...Haven't had the time. I plan to work with it this weekend, though. It's like getting a new toy.

Pretty eyes!

Art Fan Ako said...

Exquisite! Such precision!

artbyakiko said...

How romantic! I have never heard about eye portraits.
I love your eye portraits with spiritual angle; both of them are so beautiful and extremely small!

artbyakiko said...

By the way, you are given Noblesse Award. Please get the award from my blog. :)

Karen Bruson said...

Mona, Your two eye portraits are very cool and very well done.

Mona said...

Thanks all, and thanks Akiko, too, for the Noblesse blog award!

Carol Andre' said...

Never heard of "eye minis" before! How interesting. I love painting eyes, but admit I prefer to paint animal eyes to human- I love those big brown, liquid ones on deer, cows, horses, etc. Eyes are the best part of the painting!
Love your frames too.