Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Mastery of Design: The Hull Grundy Pansy Brooch, c. 1850

The British Museum

As we've often discussed before, the Victorian Language of Flowers was used to communicate many a message when the spoken word was not appropriate.  In this intimate language, the pansy represented "thoughts"--a clever play on the French word "pensees" which means "thoughts."  The pansy could also signify to the recipient of the flower that the sender was saying, "You occupy my thoughts."  The pansy was developed out of the viola by botanists from the late 1820s and by 1861, the brightly-hued, large variations that we know today were being grown.

When this brooch was made between 1840 and 1850, we can see that the flower was well on its way to becoming the bloom that we know.  At this point in both floral and jewelry history, the pansy was a popular romantic symbol, and this jewel is a perfect example of the place that the bloom held in English culture.  A work of chased two-color gold, the brooch is set with amethysts and citrines with pale green stone, possibly peridot, in the center.  The gems are mounted in the form of a pansy flower with the flower-head set on a trembler spring.

This piece forms part of the Hull Grundy bequest to The British Museum.

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