I am back to writing about what I love perhaps most of all. I found a tidbit of art history in a television show!! I absolutely adore TV and film and I love it even more when I catch a particular artwork or artistic theme that I’ve learned about. It always makes for a lovely nerdy moment for me. Historical or period dramas are full of these moments because the higher class people represented likely had well-known art in their houses or spoke frequently about artists and paintings. The new modern take on a historical drama, Bridgerton, is sweeping Netflix and has a few of my favorite actors in it! I am only one episode in, so no spoilers for today, but I will talk about something I noticed straight away when a character called Marina Thompson was welcomed into her cousins’ home.
If you’re thinking that she’s wearing a necklace with an eye on it, you’re absolutely right! This necklace is based on a real trend from the 18th and 19th centuries. One would have a small painting of their lover’s eye commissioned to be worn on a brooch, necklace, ring, or even pendant. This aptly named Lover’s Eye jewelry simultaneously reveals to society that the wearer has a lover as well as obscures their identity. You can keep a part of your lover close to you while making sure that, unless someone has a wicked ability for recognizing people’s eyes, they are a secret.
I find this kind of jewelry fascinating not just because of the mysterious (and perhaps scandalous) quality of it, but also because it’s sweet! Getting a commission of your lover’s eye to be worn on yourself is a romantic gesture because it allows you to gaze into the eyes of your partner whenever you are apart. That sounds quite silly, but think of it as almost an 18th century version of Facetime!
While it may seem like an odd bit of knowledge to have, I have a feeling that not many caught the significance of this piece of jewelry that Marina was wearing. I’m not sure yet who Marina’s lover is because it wasn’t mentioned in the first episode, but if it ends up being a plot point, I had the sneaky advantage of knowing that there was someone special in her life just by looking at her necklace! Total art history win.