Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Mastery of Design: A Brooch with a Cameo of Four Georges, c. 1820

Cameo Brooch with Four Georges
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Click on image for high resolution version.

The original part of this brooch, the cameo, was made by Rundell Bridge & Rundell in 1820.  The cameo of white on brown sardonyx was lifted from the top of, as the Royal Collection archives note, a "very elegant & richly chased Snuff Box with devices & Cameo of the four King Georges of England raised on Onyx set with Brilliant Ornaments & Crown' supplied to George IV by Rundell Bridge & Rundell ... on 21 October 1821 for £364."  The cameo is set on a matted yellow gold ground and is surmounted by a diamond-set crown.

Later set in red gold with an open-back brooch mount, the reverse of the cameo is engraved with the Garter motto HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE (Shame on him who thinks evil of it): ACCESSIT GEORGE I Aug 1 1714 GEORGE II June 11 1727 GEORGE III Oct 25 1760 GEORGE IV Jan 29 1820.

The silver wreath of rose-cut diamond laurel and palm leaves which was added to the cameo matches the laurel wreaths worn by Georges I-IV in the cameo profiles.

So, how did this cameo go from snuffbox to brooch?  And, when?  

The box, as presented to George IV in 1821, does not appear in the list of George IV’s snuffboxes sold by William IV to Rundells in 1830. Given that, the snuffbox was probably given to one of George IV’s "favorites" shortly after it was presented to him. It's most likely that the snuffbox was  dismantled and the lid converted into its present form as a brooch before its presentation to Queen Mary in July of 1893 as a wedding gift by Earl and Countess Cadogan.

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