The Nelson-Atkins
Eternal Love and Loss
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Eternal Love and Loss: Hairwork and Eye Miniatures in the Nelson-Atkins Collection
Explore timeless expressions of love and loss through this focus exhibition featuring captivating and mysterious eye miniatures, and portrait miniatures adorned with intricate hairwork Serving as enduring tokens of allegiance, and affection, these miniatures transcend time, connecting the sitter with the owner or wearer in a tangible link of sentimentality.

Hairwork, a meticulous process involving locks of hair arranged on a palette of china or glass, created braids or knots immortalizing the essence of the sitter. Adorned with gemstones and gold, these pieces conveyed profound messages with recurring motifs like the Prince of Wales feather, which affirmed allegiance to the British monarchy. 

The exhibition also explores the fascinating allure of eye miniatures, sparked by King George IV’s gift to his secret companion, Maria Fitzherbert. Mounted in rings, brooches, and bracelets, these “lover’s eyes” depict intimate connections while also leaving an air of mystery or anonymity of whose eye may be depicted. Revived briefly by Queen Victoria in the late 1800s, the enduring trend of lover’s eyes miniatures, remains popular today.

The Starr Collection of Miniatures in the Bloch Galleries
Presented to the Nelson-Atkins by Mr. and Mrs. John W. Starr in two major gifts from 1958 and 1965, and numerous additional gifts through the years, the Starr Collection of Miniatures illustrates the history of European portrait miniatures through more than 250 objects. The exhibition of portrait miniatures in Gallery P24 changes every twelve months to highlight the variety of the collection and to limit exposure of the light-sensitive pigments.

Organized by The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

For groups interested in learning more about the artwork on view in this exhibition, please request a European Art Collection tour and request in the notes that the exhibition be included as part of the tour.

Header: Unknown (English). Eye Miniature, about 1800. Watercolor on ivory, Gilt copper alloy case with pearl bezel, Sight: 3/4 x 9/16 in. (1.9 x 1.4 cm), Framed: 1 1/16 x 13/16 in. (2.7 x 2.1 cm). The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John W. Starr and the Starr Foundation, Inc., F58-60/194.
Unknown (English). Portrait of a Man (verso), 1799. Watercolor on ivory, Gilt metal alloy case with opalescent glass over foil, gold wire, and pearl hair memento featuring a “Prince of Wales feather” design, Sight: 2 3/8 × 1 15/16 inches (6.03 × 4.92 cm), Framed: 2 5/8 × 2 1/4 inches (6.67 × 5.72 cm). The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John W. Starr and the Starr Foundation, Inc., F58-60/116.