Sunday, May 19, 2013

Gifts of Grandeur: The Castellani Myrtle Tiara, 1860-1869

Italy, 1860-1869
Gold and pearls
The Victoria & Albert Museum

As archaeological discoveries in the mid Nineteenth Century offered new views of ancient art and fashion, designers of the period turned to these objects for inspiration. The Italian jewelery firm Castellani was notable for their designs which had been influenced by ancient examples. The firm of Castellani was founded in Rome by Fortunato Pio Castellani (1794-1865). In the mid-1820s Castellani won the patronage of the distinguished archaeologist Michelangelo Caetani, later Duke of Sermoneta who encouraged Castellani and his sons Alessandro (1823-1883) and Augusto (1829-1914) to focus mainly on jewelry based on classical models. Castellani’s new designs presented a stylized take on these ancient designs which were celebrated for their theatricality and beauty.

This tiara appears to have been inspired by an Etruscan gold wreath dating to the Fifth century BC, which is on display in the British Museum as part of the Campanari Collection (acquired in 1841). The tiara was part of a suite which was made for Emily, Dowager Countess of Crawford, who presented the parure to the V&A in 1921. The suite contained this wreath, a necklace and a pair of earrings. The Dowager Countess stated that the parure had been made “from the design of Michelangelo, Duke of Sermoneta, in conjunction with Castellani,” and that it was given to her as a wedding gift.

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