In November of last year, we took a team trip to In Plain Sight, a beautiful exhibition exploring sight and vision at the Welcome Collection in Euston.

Each room delved into a different theme relating to sight and vision, from symbolism, perspective and perception, to identity, design and sensory seeing.
The exhibition was fascinating and has been a great source of inspiration for us over the last few months...

But with Valentines day just around the corner, the purpose of this blog post is to tell the story of a particular sentimental artefact on display, the Eye Miniature.

Eye Miniatures

Behind a glass case in the exhibition's first room, something caught our attention - a painting of an unknown eye in a bejewelled frame no larger than a 10-pence piece.

Known as an Eye Miniature, these decorative broaches were said to be first worn by French policemen as a symbol of watchfulness, until somewhere along the line, they took on far more exciting meaning among the British upper class as a discrete token of affection between secret lovers.

The origin of this symbolic shift is slightly ambiguous but historians seem to link it to the scandalous affair between the Prince of Wales (who later became King George IV) and Maria Fitzherbert, a roman catholic widower.

Maria Fitzherbert  King George IV

Her faith meant that a union between the two would exclude the Prince from succession to the thrown. Despite the courts disapproval, they wed in secret and so the story goes, commissioned a skilled miniaturist named Richard Cosway to paint two eye miniatures as tokens of their secret affair.

When their love story eventually leaked to the public, eye miniatures became popular among the privileged upper class.

Click here to catch In Plain Sight before it ends on the 12/02/2023