Monday, January 9, 2012

The Look Of Love

I have been collecting antique silver lockets and mourning lockets for quite some time for their unique beauty and charming history.  Because so many of them originated in Europe during the 1800’s, they are not as abundantly found here in the US. 

Additionally, I have recently been very enamored by what is commonly know as “Lover’s Eye” or miniature eye portraits.  My fascination began when I found a slide bracelet that integrated several of the “Lover’s Eyes” into the design.  As much as I loved the bracelet, the cost was truly astronomical and I passed on the opportunity to be the new owner.  Antique “Lover’s Eye” lockets are quite expensive, ranging in the thousands of dollars for one.  The history of how these came to be fashionable is not only very interesting, but endearing.

Still I have a serious confession. Even though I'm in new quarters, all refurnished with new posters and a brand-new bed, and friends more often say, "You're looking good, old buddy," there is something that I've kept of Jenny, who was once my wife.  

In the bottom drawer of the desk at home are Jenny's glasses. Yes. Both pairs of Jenny's glasses.  Because a glance at them reminds me of of the lovely eyes that looked through them to look through me. - Eric Segal, Oliver's Story

“There's a reason the poets remind us the eyes are the window to the soul.  Because they are. Eyes are the finest feature a man or woman can possess. And wield.
The invention of "A Lover's Eye" is credited to Mrs. Fitzherbert.  Due to all the secrecy surrounding her we can never be quite sure, but it is believed that sometime around 1785 Mrs. Fitzherbert commissioned Richard A. Cosway, one of London's most accomplished miniaturists, to paint one of her lovely eyes. Not her entire face.  The portrait was done on ivory, placed behind glass and set within a locket. She gave it as a present to her third husband. The reason for all the secrecy between Mrs. Fitzherbert and her husband is that their marriage was an illicit one. In the eyes of the British courts and Church which were one and the same, it was invalid. Though, in the eyes of Mrs. Fitzherbert's own Church, the Catholic Church, it was completely valid.
Mrs. Fitzherbert, a twice-widowed Catholic, had married the Prince of Wales, the future George IV. The Marriage Act of 1772 prevented descendants of George II from marrying Catholics.  If the marriage of Mrs. Fitzherbert and the Prince had become known, he would not have succeeded to the throne. So the marriage, contracted in secret, remained in secret. The Prince of Wales, caught firmly between love and duty, could not be found wearing a portrait of his beloved wife.  But he could wear a portrait of her eye. If anyone, political friend or foe, chanced to see the eye, they could not say  with complete authority it was Mrs. Fitzherbert.   
Due to the pressing demands of his father, the King, and his even more pressing gambling debts, the Prince of Wales did commit bigamy by marrying the rich Protestant princess, Caroline of Brunswick.  That marriage was a disaster. He was drunk during the ceremony and they only had marital relations 3 times. Twice on their wedding night and once the next day.  Fortunately three times was enough as it brought forth the much required heir, Charlotte. After Charlotte's birth, the Prince made out a new will in which he left all his property to "Maria Fitzherbert, my wife". To Princess Caroline, the wife his Church recognized as well as mother of his child, he gallantly gave one shilling. The Prince returned to the arms of his real wife as well as the arms of all his countless mistresses. Caroline found herself in the arms of so many men she was soon called "The Immoral Queen". They never lived together.  George even forbade her from attending his coronation but she was his Queen.
The Prince of Wales continued to live off and on with Mrs. Fitzherbert until their relationship ended in about 1811.  When George IV died in 1830, it was discovered he was not only wearing her "Lover's Eye" locket around his neck, he had kept all of her letters. His brother, the new King, offered to make her a duchess for all of her suffering. She refused.  She died as Mrs. Fitzherbert, well-respected among those whose respect was worthy of having, in 1837.
This is the romantic history behind "A Lover's Eye". Lover's Eyes set in lockets, brooches and even rings became quite the token of love among illicit lovers. Perhaps even among licit lovers who enjoyed romance. Both men and women sat for them.  They continued in popularity well into the 1850's. Or until the camera's invention. 
Women in my day still understood the power of the eyes as the Eric Segal excerpt above most firmly attests.  But it appears the women of today do not.  Something has seriously gone missing.” 
The above article is from A Lover’s Eye by Mrs. Peperium, November 18, 2009

Rather serendipitously, I came across a very talented artist who was willing to collaborate with me on incorporating new “Lover’s Eye” paintings into some of my antique lockets.  The Annabelle Necklace is the first result of that collaboration.  

Annabelle Necklace

As you can see, the beautiful eye is painted in a style to resemble the antiquity of its older counterparts.  The stunning locket, unique in the fact it  has paste stones on both sides in addition to a paste stone encrusted bow, is the perfect frame to showcase the very talented beauty of the eye art.  However, there is a very unique surprise on the other side - a diminutive Napoleonic bee in 24k gold vermeil, floating in a sea of 4 carats of stunning blue sapphires.  From the back side, you can also see the artist’s signature and date.

For this first necklace, I truly wanted the beauty of the artistry and antiquity to be the focal point of the design.  Generous moonstone rondelles with their “blue flash” are juxtaposed with grey freshwater pearls and hand-coiled accents of silver pyrite to enhance the antique beauty of the locket.  As most of these lockets are a combination of silver and gold, that combination also extends to the hand linked chain to allow the owners to wear it with either preference.