Monday, June 15, 2009
Eye Spy: Monocles and Lorgnettes
I must report my eyebrows recently achieved lift-off when I came across, for the first time, the BBC's long-running Sky at Night, hosted by the splendid Sir Patrick Moore (above). The reason? Not the discussion on different sorts of galaxies, interesting though it was, but Sir Patrick's stout orbicular embrace of a monocle.
Which got me wondering about these old-fashioned eyepieces, and why they seemed almost exclusively worn by men (cf the New Yorker's Eustace Tilly, and Planter's Mr. Peanut).
A bit of research revealed that there were a small number of female monocle wearers--like Una, Lady Troubridge, (left) sculptress and translator of Colette--who were by and large of the lesbian persuasion.
A more traditionally feminine bit of eye kit was the lorgnette, which unlike the monocle, has two lenses and a stem. These seem to me a lovely alternative to halfway-down-the-nose reading glasses. (painting by Henri Georges Jean Isidore Meunier)
Some gorgeous antique examples, like the fab art nouveau versions below, are readily found on eBay.