Retouching for Romeo & Juliet

In using works in the public domain and in particular old sources like museums, sometimes retouching and other work is needed.

This particular piece stood out to me when looking for images that would best capture the emotions of Romeo and Juliet. It is something that jewellery historians call “lover’s eyes” – where a piece of jewellery is made simply showing a lover’s eyes. This particular one dates back to the 1840’s and is American, but other than that nobody knows anything about it.

The back shows it was probably supposed to be worn as a pin or brooch on a piece of clothing and that it also contains a lock of the lover’s hair.

I love finding history like this and I have to say it was a very lucky find. The piece is so strong on its own – in its mystery and air of forbidden love it carries. I, frankly, find it immensely fascinating.

As you can see I did quite a lot to this piece. Because it was meant to be worn as a brooch or a pin, the clasp visible on the left made the whole thing seem asymmetrical. Seeing as though I only wanted to use the front anyway, I opted to change the position of the mechanism.

The piece overlaid with a perfect ellipsis.

Adding to that is the general, warped nature of its dimensions. This is likely due to it having been painted on ivory. It is only about 2.5 by 1.9 cm which means that it is very likely painted on a thin slice of an elephant’s tusk – it is not perfectly circular.

After that, I did not want to change much, as the piece was so strong on its own. I removed some imperfections in the paint, such as a few pieces of tiny debris that had lodged themselves between the class and the watercolour, as well as two cracks that had developed in either the paint layer or the ivory itself just below the right eye.

I left the rest of the grime and general wear-and-tear alone, as it was never supposed to look pristine, but rather like an actual object from the story.