Saturday, February 28, 2015

Unusual Artifacts: A Crystal Memorial Slide, 1700

Memorial Slide, 1700
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Though rather unsettling at first, this gold slide with an enameled skeleton holding an arrow is quite attractive. Within the slide, the initials “IC” are shown on a background of hair under rock crystal. The reverse is engraved, “IC OBT 6 JUL AETA 3 YE 8 MO.”

This is the perfect example of a Seventeenth Century commemorative memorial jewel. Such memorial jewels were a staple of the Eighteenth Century in more romantic forms, but these early examples take a more realistic look at death. Imagery such as skeletons, skulls and winged hourglasses were frequently used for such jewelry and hair from the deceased was almost always incorporated.

From the inscription on the reverse, which is partially in Latin, we can see that it was made in memory of a child with the initials “IC” who had died on the 6th of July (in an unknown year) who was aged three years and 8 months.

The slide is fitted with two flat loops at the back through which a ribbon of silk or woven hair would be threaded, enabling it to be worn around the neck or wrist.

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