If you consider the eye to be the “window of the soul” it will come as no surprise that eyes have been an enduring and poignant symbol throughout history. From the Egyptian eye of Ra to the all-seeing eye of God adopted by the Freemasons.
In the eighteenth century a more whimsical use of eyes emerged as a very popular trend. Called “lover’s eyes” by collectors, miniature paintings of eyes became a popular gift of affection as a token of secret love. This trend is anecdotally attributed to the flamboyant, style-setting Prince of Wales.
It is said that from the late Eighteenth Century when the Prince was refused permission by his father, King George III, and by British law to wed the widowed (and Catholic) Mrs. Maria Fitzherbert. The widow avoided the Prince's proposal by escaping to Europe. In order to keep his romance with her a secret from the disapproving court and in an effort to bolster his proposal, an eye miniature was conceived of and painted by Richard Cosway, a popular court miniaturist.
Apparently the gift won her over and they were secretly (and illegally) married. Cosway, in turn, painted the bride's eye in order that she might covertly present it to the Prince. Soon, other British nobility followed the Prince's lead and the trend spread to the continent, taking Europe by storm.
It is fairly well documented that the trend started before the Prince of Wales’ daring use of the lover’s eye. But who doesn't like a good story of romance?
These days there are many ways to show some love. Why not entice your secret (or not so secret) love by giving 'em the Eyes!