Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Early Eyewhites

Prior to the mid-1990s, eye detailing was a relatively uncomplicated topic. You had earlier, overpainted two-stroke eyewhites, the slightly later underpainted "masked" eyewhites, and a few examples (usually among the non-animals) of eyeliner eyewhites, which were really just a variation of the two-stroke eyewhites. That were sometimes pink.

Overpainted eyewhites consist of two near-translucent paintstrokes over the back corner of the eye, painted over the black dot eye. As seen on this Bay Running Mare:

Underpainted eyewhites are done by painting the entire back half of the eyeball white, and painting the black dot eye over it. It gives a sharper, more masked look. As seen on this Pacer:

There were some notable exceptions - many of the Dogs, including the Boxer, Poodles, Bloodhound/Bassett Hound and the St. Bernard - had unique and detailed eye treatments. Some of the Dall Sheep and Mountain Goats had a type of brown bi-eye. And the earliest versions of the Fighting Stallion had a little extra airbrushed pinking around the eye (most of which have faded and disappeared over time.)

Nowadays it’s a rare model that doesn’t have some sort of fancy eye detailing - even Stablemates aren’t immune, though mercifully Reeves is backing off on them a little bit (presumably for cost, but also probably because of the freakish scale issues.)

The standard eye treatment, from the mid-1960s until quite recently, was the simple black dot eye, usually glossed. Some of the smaller scale models would have the entire surface of the eye painted black, but most Traditionals got a round or oval shaped dot that left part of the eyeball unpainted, giving the impression of eyewhites. I call these "unpainted" or false eyewhites. They’re most obvious on lighter-colored models, such as this Running Stallion:

Overspray on these types of eyes is common, often giving the appearance of gray or black eyeliner. It may or may not have been intentional.

Setting aside the Dog molds, the earliest known painted eyewhites didn’t appear until ca. 1959. It’s important to note that Breyer was not consistent with the application of eyewhites in its earliest days; some models got them, some didn’t, and there was little rhyme or reason why. Some early models are pretty rare to find with painted eyewhites, like the Buckskin Quarter Horse Gelding and Buckskin Mustang, while others are relatively common, such as the Gloss Charcoal Fighting Stallion. Early glosses are a little more likely to be found with eyewhites than early mattes, but there are exceptions to that rule, too (i.e. the Stretch Morgan!)

Some colors were less likely to have painted eyewhites, too. Virtually all white and Alabaster molds that I’ve seen have had the unpainted variety, and painted eyewhites tend to be rather rare on the whole spectrum of gray-based paint jobs (except the Smoke Belgian. Go figure.)

I haven’t done any elaborate charting of eyewhites to determine timing or rarity; there might have been an eyewhite gap between the earlier overpainted eyewhites and the later underpainted ones, but I haven’t been able to verify or deny it because of the consistency issue.

Painted eyewhites of all types - again, excluding the non-horse exceptions - seem to have been discontinued by 1968; the Traditional Man o’ War and Pacer, both of whom debuted in 1967, were the last regular run horses issued with factory eyewhites until the 1990s.


Anonymous said...

So is there a problem with counterfeit eyewhites like with the glossy finishes?

ANDREA said...

Surprisingly, I haven't seen that many counterfeit eyewhites.

I'm guessing that the kind of person inclined to do this sort of thing is going to go for the biggest bang for their buck, and lately that's been glossing. Eyewhites are just the icing.

As an accounting professor told me once, if you're going to steal, you might as well steal big.