Friday, February 7, 2014

Mastery of Design: The Cornflower Aigrette, late Eighteenth Century

From the Hull Grundy Gift
This and all related images from:
The British Museum

I like the word "aigrette."  It's one of those words which I find fun to say.  Furthermore, I like aigrettes since they're often very sparkly and chock-full o' diamonds.  This one's no exception.

I know we've looked at a good many aigrettes before.  This one, however, I think is my favorite of the lot to date.

This aigrette is in the form of a ribbon-tied trembler spray of cornflowers and wheat-ears.  The British Museum was bequeathed this aigrette and a many of its cousins as part of the Hull Grundy gift, and the museum describes the silver and gold, open-back spray set with diamonds as being of particularly "fine workmanship."  

Made in the late Eighteenth or early Nineteenth Century, the piece was possibly made in France, but, shows stylistic elements of English design as well.  The taste for such spray ornaments and jeweled bouquets was particularly strong in both France and England until well after the turn of the Nineteenth Century.  According to the museum, "a very similar aigrette is included in a French design-book issued by Villardi in 1811." The Morocco leather case further suggests French origin.  

The British Museum also states that, "This may be the 'Antique diamond brooch in the form of a harvest bouquet, the wheat ears, leaves and stems pavé-set with cushion-shaped stones, the single flower-head similarly set with a larger diamond at the centre, with case' sold at auction 'By order of the executors'" which was among the pieces taken from the Tuileries by the Empress Eugénie.  An inventory of the Empress' jewels from 1870 declares that there was a "beautiful brilliant brooch formed as a cornflower and a group of foliage."  

No comments: