The eyes have it

or, Living the Highlight

I’ve been thinking about eyes. I often do. Not when looking at them in real life – as a classic introvert, I’m too busy examining my shoes, or possible exit routes when in company – but in my portraits.

I’ve often written in the blog about the moment when the picture comes to life – and it’s the point when I finish the eyes and highlights. The different is little short of breath-taking. Every time.

As they say, the eyes are the windows to the soul:

It’s just amazing how the entire outside world is caught and reflected in these minute flakes of light, and in that reflection, the soul steps into being. All very Pygmalion, now I think about it: the sculptor who falls for his art.

But how could I not fall for these!

As they say … but who say? I have Elizabeth I wandering round my head (I do, but perhaps that’s another story), saying something about eyes and the soul. I’d like it to be her, but I know she was only talking about a (small) degree of religious tolerance – not wanting to make windows into people’s souls. Still, in my head, she is whispering about the power of eyes and highlights.

Of course, in the age of instant verification, I can google and find out who really said it – but I pause, because I would rather stay in the Elizabeth I moment a while longer…. I suppose I don’t mind if it was Shakespeare, things usually are – even if they didn’t start that way – perhaps I will look it up.

Well, there you go – turns out it was rather interesting. I vaguely assumed Shakespeare said it, but I was wrong. It comes from no one exactly: shreds and patches – a bit from the Bible, a bit from one of the Romans, but essentially it’s a proverb, and so it belongs to all of us. 

As I say, the eyes are the windows to the soul.

But if you thought I had managed so easily to pin down the exact location of the soul, when so many thousand theologians and skeptics have long struggled to no certain end – I will have to admit that it cannot be quite so simple. For though all pets have souls shining through their eyes (especially when raised in love to their food-bearing-owner), not all of them have visible eyes. But I defy anyone to see an absence of soul in the following:

I guess we have to keep looking. Answers on a postcard please.

4 thoughts on “The eyes have it

  1. Happily more Betty Boothroyd than John Bercow so without the red eye.

    Absolutely great; I’ll never look a dog in the eye in quite the same way again


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