Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mastery of Design: Queen Mary's Ruby and Thirteen Cameo Tea Brooch, Sixteenth to Nineteenth Centuries

Crown Copyright

The Royal Collection

Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Mary rescued more jewelry from being broken apart than Sting has rescued Rain Forest trees. This brooch of gold, Burmese rubies and thirteen onyx cameos was part of an impressive parure dating back to the Sixteenth Century. Queen Mary was known to wear the brooch for teas and less formal occasions when diamonds would not have been appropriate. The current arrangement of the cameos dated to the early Nineteenth Century when the piece was reconstructed with additional rubies and a mounted hook for a detachable pendant drop. Her Majesty admired the brooch and accompanying suite which had been part of another collection, acquiring it in 1932.

The cameos depict a rather odd assortment of subjects:

1. Two female figures, in long dresses.
2. Seated male nude, possibly Dionysus, approached by a satyr blowing a horn.
3, Male nude running towards a bonfire.
4. Male nude, making a sacrifice at an altar.
5, Orpheus, nude, with a small animal.
6. Female musician with her right breast exposed.
7. The Adoration of the Magi
8. Male musician, wearing a tunic.
9. Cupid, walking to the right, reading from a scroll.
10. Cupid, walking to the left, carrying a vessel.
11. Cupid, facing left, teasing a bird.
12. Cupid, walking to the left, again.
13. Kneeling male nude, offering an object to a seated male wearing a tunic, possibly a slave serving his master.


Dashwood said...

Her Royal Grandmother would probably have painted little outfits over each of them.

Joseph Crisalli said...

This is true. "Aunt Vicky," as Queen Mary referred to her husband's grandmother (also her mother's cousin), Queen Victoria, would most certainly have had little cameo outfits made for each nude--after taking time to study them privately first.