Eye Miniatures by Fatima Ronquillo

See this work on the “Learn About Art” page

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The Artist: Who is Fatima Ronquillo?

Born in the Philippines in 1976, Fatima Ronquillo is a self-taught contemporary artist whose work evokes memories of childhood fairy tales. When she was eleven years old, she and her family immigrated to San Antonio, Texas. She now works out of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and many of her works are included in collections in the Meyer Gallery in Park City, Utah and the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art. There is little biographical information on Fatima, but her work can be viewed on the below social media. 1






The Work: The Inspiration Behind the Eye Miniature Series

Fatima’s work is an amalgamation of European classical traditioncolonial imagery, and whimsy. In 2008, she was inspired by a blog post by The Ornamentalist entitled “Eye Candy.” In the post, Lynne Rutter writes about the tradition of having the eye of one’s beloved, and sometimes the eye of a family member, painted in miniature to be kept as a love token. 2 Fascinated by the surreal aspect of a solitary eye, Fatima pursued a series of paintings that each emulate this sentimental remnant of the European Victorian Era. 3

The tradition of keeping the depiction of a loved one’s eye is thought to have been originated by the Prince of Wales, who would eventually become King George IV. Known as the Don Juan of the United Kingdom, one has to wonder if he had these small portraits painted to keep count of all his lovers. The most notorious affair, and perhaps the first notable exchange of an eye miniature, was between the Prince of Wales and the married Catholic, Maria Fitzherbert. He commissioned British miniaturist Richard Cosway to paint his eye, which he then mailed to Maria in addition to a proposal of marriage. Maria commissioned a pock-sized portrait in return and they were thereafter wed illegally according to the 1701 Act of Settlement. 4

Naturally, members of the upper class were the ones who commissioned artists for these eye portraits. The materials used to frame the portraits were costly: they were often set into “brooches, pendants or rings, sometimes surrounded by gemstones.” 4 Sometimes, diamonds were inserted into the ivory backdrop to mimic a glistening tear. According to Michelle Graff, however, the desire for miniatures began to wane in the mid-19th century as the populace became more fascinated by photography. Nowadays, miniatures are appreciated by antique collectors and historians, and the retail price for these pieces range from $2,500 to $10,000. 5

Works Cited

  1. About Fatima Ronquillo
  2. “Eye Candy” on The Ornamentalist Blog by Lynne Rutter
  3. Eye Miniature Series by Fatima Ronquillo
  4. “19th-Century ‘Lover’s Eye’ Jewelry Was the Perfect Accessory for Secret Affairs” by Carly Silver
  5. “The History Behind Eye Miniatures” by Michelle Graff


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Jessie says:

    I’m a huge fan of Fatima Ronquillo’s work too!


    1. kaileyrhone says:

      I found her on Pinterest, and I LOVE her style.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Jessie says:

        Same, except I think I discovered her work on Instagram.


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