Treasuring the Gaze: Intimate Vision in Late Eighteenth-Century Eye Miniatures

Hardcover | February 5, 2013

byHanneke Grootenboer

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The end of the eighteenth century saw the start of a new craze in Europe: tiny portraits of single eyes that were exchanged by lovers or family members. Worn as brooches or pendants, these minuscule eyes served the same emotional need as more conventional mementoes, such as lockets containing a coil of a loved one’s hair. The fashion lasted only a few decades, and by the early 1800s eye miniatures had faded into oblivion. Unearthing these portraits in Treasuring the Gaze, Hanneke Grootenboer proposes that the rage for eye miniatures—and their abrupt disappearance—reveals a knot in the unfolding of the history of vision.
 
Drawing on Alois Riegl, Jean-Luc Nancy, Marcia Pointon, Melanie Klein, and others, Grootenboer unravels this knot, discovering previously unseen patterns of looking and strategies for showing. She shows that eye miniatures portray the subject’s gaze rather than his or her eye, making the recipient of the keepsake an exclusive beholder who is perpetually watched. These treasured portraits always return the looks they receive and, as such, they create a reciprocal mode of viewing that Grootenboer calls intimate vision. Recounting stories about eye miniatures—including the role one played in the scandalous affair of Mrs. Fitzherbert and the Prince of Wales, a portrait of the mesmerizing eye of Lord Byron, and the loss and longing incorporated in crying eye miniatures—Grootenboer shows that intimate vision brings the gaze of another deep into the heart of private experience.
 
With a host of fascinating imagery from this eccentric and mostly forgotten yet deeply private keepsake, Treasuring the Gaze provides new insights into the art of miniature painting and the genre of portraiture.

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From the Publisher

The end of the eighteenth century saw the start of a new craze in Europe: tiny portraits of single eyes that were exchanged by lovers or family members. Worn as brooches or pendants, these minuscule eyes served the same emotional need as more conventional mementoes, such as lockets containing a coil of a loved one’s hair. The fashion l...

Hanneke Grootenboer is professor in the history of art and a fellow and tutor at St Peter’s College, University of Oxford. She is the author of The Rhetoric of Perspective: Realism and Illusionism in Dutch Seventeenth-Century Still Life Painting, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

other books by Hanneke Grootenboer

Format:HardcoverDimensions:300 pages, 10 × 7 × 1 inPublished:February 5, 2013Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0226309665

ISBN - 13:9780226309668

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction An Overlooked Episode of Vision’s History

Chapter 1 Intimate Vision: The Portrait Miniature’s Structure of Address
Chapter 2 Gazing Games: Eye Portraits and the Two Sexes of Sight
Chapter 3 The Crying Image: The Withdrawal of the Gaze
Chapter 4 Intimate as Extimate: The Gaze as Part-Object
Chapter 5 The Face Becoming Eye: Portraiture’s Minimum
Conclusion The Eye Portrait’s Afterlife

Notes
Bibliography
Index

Editorial Reviews

“Treasuring the Gaze is a major contribution not just to a curious corner of art history but to a broad spectrum of visual theory. A thrilling blend of museum finds and conceptual findings, the argument that unfolds makes for one of the most steadily interesting works on visual practice and image culture I have read in many years. The dialectical reversals and counterintuitive surprises of the projected and introjected look are handled with full sophistication, rare clarity, and rich assurance. With an appealing modesty and a gathering magisterial force, Treasuring the Gaze achieves what it ventures:  the revisionary foundation for a psychoanalytical aesthetics.”