Love’s Unknowable Eye: The Curious History and Mysterious Allure of 18th Century “Lovers Eyes”
Observatory (543 Union St., Brooklyn)
Tonight at Observatory, we invite you to join us for a highly illustrated talk on what were historically called “eye miniatures,” now called “lover’s eyes.” These beautiful portrait miniatures, featuring only the eye of the sitter, enjoyed a brief stint of outrageous popularity in the 18th century after a scandal involving the Prince of Wales, an illicit love affair, and a dramatic suicide attempt over the rejected love of a forbidden woman. Often created as tokens of memory for unsanctioned love, these gorgeous paintings—intensely intimate yet mysteriously anonymous—were lushly rendered on such media as ivory or copper. More than just treasures or statements of wealth, they were symbols of devotion, marriage, death, infidelity, memory, and promise. Nearly all of these enigmatic eyes are from lovers unknown, fictions that lure us with a fixed gaze, unyielding in its mystery and desire. Although the feverish mania for these objects ended nearly as quickly as it began, they continue to inspire, serving as muse to contemporary artists, photographers, painters and tattooists who explore the concept in thoroughly contemporary manners.
Tonight, Chicago based artist Lauren Levato–who curates a private collection containing thousands of objects of erotic affection, including several lover’s eyes set in brooches, rings, pill boxes, and bracelets–will trace the history and phenomenon of Lover’s Eyes, of which only an estimated 1,000 are known to still exist.
Lauren will also bring some authentic 18th century Lover’s Eyes for your delectation.