Saturday, January 11, 2014

Mastery of Design: The Five Character Brooch, 18th C.

French Brooch of Enameled Gold
The Victoria & Albert Museum

An unusual piece, this brooch is adorned with images of five different characters, painted each on their own separate but uniformly-sized sections of the circular disc which comprises the jewel. No rigid physical separation (like a frame) is between the segments which are indicated only by a change of painted ground color. The face of each character is portrayed facing forward as their bodies taper at their waists, meeting at the center of the disc where a rough cabochon ruby is surmounted by a paste “diamond.” 

The character at the top, opposite to the position the pin points, is a woman wearing a blue dress with a rich, white lace collar and a black headdress. She is set against a pale grey ground. Going clockwise, the next character is a pierrot in a striped doublet with white ruff and striped headdress. Next, we see a young woman in an embroidered yellow gown with a low lace edge and a red cloak. On her head is a coronet adorned with colored feathers. She carries a sword and may represent the Roman goddess Bellona or possibly a Queen of the Amazons. Next to her is a man in grey costume whose nightcap appears to be falling from his head. The last character—on a light blue ground--is a man in black doublet, white ruff and cuffs; his black sleeves are slashed to reveal pink beneath and his black hat bears a pink feather.

This piece was made in France in the Eighteenth Century by an unknown maker as a jewelry novelty of enamel set in beaded gold.

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