Thursday, November 7, 2013

Mastery of Design: The White Lady and Her Dog Cameo, 1799

Cameo Pendant
Italian Cameo
Set in Gold in 1799
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection 
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Made in Italy in 1799 this brooch features a cameo which dates to the Sixteenth Century. The brooch unusually light gray and translucent white onyx is mounted in an open, gilt-brass setting with a suspension loop.

The piece was originally recorded as being part of the Royal Collection in 1872, presumably collected by Queen Victoria, but thought to have been worn by the Princess of Wales (later Queen Alexandra).

The cameo depicts a bust of a nude woman in three-quarter view, her hair cascading in curls over her shoulders. As was the style of the Sixteenth Century, the young woman—though naked—is wearing a veil over the back of her head. She holds a small dog in her arms.

Small dogs like the one we see here—of indeterminate breed—were popular subject of Italian Sixteenth Century art and jewelry, especially in compositions of young, virginal ladies. They were meant to symbolize loyalty and innocence—two traits which one admired in a young woman. 

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