Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lover's Eyes - Artists Fatima Ronquillo, Jeanine Payer, and Betsy Youngquist

One of my favorite contemporary artists is Fatima Ronquillo. Originally from the Philippines, she now resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Fatima paints stunningly beautiful figures in a fine, old European classical style.

 I love  how refined the paintings are, but with a folk like quality, and almost always with a little quirk or twist.

They are clearly symbolic, evoking the solid feeling that there is more than meets the eye when looking at them.

 I always want to know the story behind the painting.

So, as I began to study these paintings, I spied a common feature in some of the works.
The brooch with an eye on some of the articles of clothing caught my attention and of course I had to figure out what it meant. 

And so, I began to research antique "Lover's Eyes".

As the name implies, the eye on the piece of jewelry was that of a loved one - perhaps a lover, or a deceased loved one, as a form of mourning jewelry.

 One person told me they were a way of carrying a  partial photo of a secret lover, "secret" implying they would not want to carry the entire photo for fear of exposure. 

Others told me they might be for a husband, wife or another loved one, as a sentimental reminder of that person while away.

Like the soldier - is his love secret, or missed, as he is away from home?

Whatever they were meant to be, they are romantic, bizarre, and in my opinion, quite wonderful!

The eye might be a photograph, or portion of one, or hand painted. They can be found on rings, pendants or brooches.



Here is a wonderful assortment of antique Lover's Eye pieces found on The Ornamentalist, a really interesting blog written by artist and decorative painter, Lynn Rutter.

For more history and detail about Lover's Eyes,
 visit her blog post, "Eye Candy".

Betsy Youngquist is a contemporary artist who creates magnificent, detailed mosaic jewelry and decorative objects. 

 I found these eye pendants on her Etsy site. Aren't they strangely beautiful!


When my daughter and I were in San Francisco in March, we discovered the most wonderful, small jewelry shop, Jeanine Payer.


The exquisitely designed little shop,  tiny, but filled with handmade jewelry, each piece engraved with poetry, captured our hearts for a good part of an afternoon.

The pieces we saw were subtle and dear - nothing flashy here, but oh what beauty.

So, as I perused the lovely cases of jewelry, my eye landed on the necklace below. 

I couldn't believe it! 
I had just recently become fascinated with  Lover's Eyes, and what a happy coincidence it was to stumble upon this contemporary little gem!

I asked the shop keeper to show me the necklace and to tell me about it, not knowing for sure if it was meant to be a lover's eye. 

When she said "Well, are you familiar with antique lover's eyes pendants?" I was thrilled!

My immediate reply was "Oh I was hoping you would ask me that!"
and then explained to her that I had just recently become enthralled with the whole concept. 

Created in both silver and gold, the silver one came home with me. It is attached to a lovely silver chain, too, as seen above.

On the back is engraved:

Once you have flown, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward; for there you have been, there you long to return.

- Leonardo da Vinci

I loved the gold one with the different toned eye, but the price difference was considerable, so the silver is just fine for me.

Now I will be on the hunt for the antique brooches, pendants or rings, although I understand they are rare and very expensive.

If I find one though, you will be the first to know! 


  1. I have always thought those lovers eyes pieces were interesting. But call me weird......I am finding that painting of the little girl and her "bugs" somewhat compelling as well!!! Now I am off to check out Ms.Ronquillo. Thanks!

  2. Wow! I learned something I didn't know. Love that! And what interesting pieces of jewelry. :-)


  3. Lover's eyes have always intrigued me. The pieces by Betsy Youngquist are new to me...thanks for the link!

  4. wow, i just love knowing a little bit of history about a piece! thank you so much!!!!
    p.s. that's ok... i've been a hill country house stalker for years! ;) P.s.s. really think that the chief & the gypsy should have coffee some time soon...

  5. what a fabulous post! so glad to see some contemporary work featured here, too. and how thrilling to see my one wee treasure featured in this gorgeous blog.

  6. Interesting! I didn't know about this either- great post!

  7. I've never heard of lovers eyes, what a fascinating post! LOVE the painting with the pig.

  8. Dear Ann,
    What an interesting post. "Lover's eyes" who knew? I'm going to have to have one of her paintings. They are delightful and fascinating. Love the fantasy on such old fashioned brush work and themes.
    Thank you. Nella

  9. Ann, such harmonic convergence! The quote almost gives me chills, it is layered with meaning isn't it? And I love learning about artists here. Fatima's paintings are clearly multidimensional too, and you're right, the more I look at it, the more there is to see. Your pendant looks like it could be from any century. It is just wonderful. Thank you so much for this fabulous post! :) Diane

  10. I love Fatima's paintings and the jewelry is so unique. Thanks for sharing!

  11. so unusual, I don't think I've ever seen an antique eye!! but will now keep and "eye" out;)

    can't wait to see you this summer too!
    thank you for your wonderful comment.

  12. Fascinating. I didn't know the history behind lover's eyes. Love Jeanine Payers' pendants, such a beautiful modern version.

  13. remarkable! amazing!

  14. Such an interesting and education post.

  15. What an interesting post! You have a good eye, Ann!
    Hope you're doing well -- stop by "my place" for a GiveAWay -- porcelain house numbers from Denmark! Have a great weekend, -susan

  16. I love the "eyes". The jewelry/mosaics by Betsy Youngquist are exqusite. Thanks for sharing!!

  17. Hi Ann!
    How interesting! The artist is certainly talented, and her work unique.... Also I had not heard of the "Lover's Eyes" always a pleasure to learn something new here! Happy Easter! Maryanne xo

  18. Gorgeous pieces. I love unique talent like this. will check out the sites. Did you go to Roundtop? My niece had a baby and I missed the last show. Made me very sad. Looking forward to the Fall. Mona



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